Disclaimer: there is One who owns all endings, all sorrows, and all joys, and I am not Him. My work is but a poor imitation of His, and I hope it pleases.
Beta'd by trustingHim17, who makes this all read much more smoothly.
Several hours from the mountain, Lucy and seven Dwarves guarded the Gentle Queen. The Dwarves had taken them underground through a tunnel too narrow for the Telar to enter. There Lucy sat by her sister's side, holding the cold, limp hand in her own.
Suddenly she felt something slide on top of her head. The metal of her crown gleamed in front of her eyes before falling into her lap, and Lucy's breath rushed out of her body. She turned to Susan, scrambling, reaching her hand to Susan's mouth, begging Aslan to let her sister still breathe. Begging Him to have let the spell end another way than because the Telar won. She touched Susan's lips.
Her sister blinked, her mouth opening and closing, and Lucy felt the fingers she still held in her other hand fold around Lucy's own. Susan's eyes met hers.
"Lucy?" whispered the Gentle Queen.
"Oh, Susan," cried Lucy, wrapping her arms around her sister and beginning to cry in relief.
Seven muttered thanks to Aslan filled in the small room.
The adrenaline left Edmund's body aching and tired. All their enemies were dead, dead by their own choice, and Edmund wondered numbly if the Narnians could have stopped it any other way.
Peter moved forward, walking towards the last of the Telar, Zedekah still and lifeless before remnants of his Queen. Without touching the statue, Peter placed his fingers around the gold circlet still held in Zedekah's fist.
The statue crumbled anyway, Peter watching it with pity and sternness in his eyes. Edmund's heart eased. His High King, one with mercy that did not condone—the one who won back Susan's crown. Edmund would follow him anywhere.
"Your Majesty," spoke a deep voice to the side, and Oreius's callused fingers landed on Edmund's shoulder. "How is your head?"
"It hurts," Edmund said shortly, eyes still fixed on the circlet in Peter's hand. Susan's life, cradled in the High King's grasp. They had to get it back to her; Edmund had to see her eyes open again, hear her voice answer theirs.
A broad hand parted his hair, interrupting his thoughts. Edmund jerked away. Oreius knelt, awkward as horses are as they bend, holding Edmund's arm with a firm grasp. "I need to look at your head, your Majesty. Head wounds can be dangerous on creatures without fur."
"Oreius?" Peter asked behind them, but the General did not reply. He parted Edmund's hair again, gently running his fingers around the bump.
"It is not swelling much, nor bleeding, my King. The Healers should check it, but I think he will be fine to move."
"Of course I'm fine to move," Edmund growled, though he accepted Peter's hand up, turning to offer his own hand to Oreius. Peter did the same. Oreius' mouth twitched as he saw the two boys offering to help him up to twice their height, but he accepted them.
"Your Majesty should ride on the way back," Oreius advised. Edmund thought about protesting but knew if he walked their pace would be slower.
"Anything to get back to Susan quickly," he agreed, and Peter's hand squeezed his shoulder.
"Let's go," the High King said.
"Where am I?" Susan asked, after she'd soothed Lucy's tears.
"Underground, safe from the Telar," Lucy answered.
"Peter and Edmund?"
"Chasing the Telar who took your crown. They should be all right," Lucy added as a closed look came over Susan's face. "Oreius and the others went with them."
Susan did not respond.
"Should we go look for them?" Lucy asked quietly, calling Susan back from wherever her mind had gone.
"Look for whom?" Susan questioned, blinking as she returned.
"Peter and the others."
"Do they know we're here?"
"No, and they'll be worried," Lucy added softly, remembering the horror in Edmund's face and the resolve in Peter's.
"Then we should go find them. I would like to ask them how I was saved." Lucy had no answer for that, and Susan turned to the Dwarves. "Good cousins, would you gather what Birds and creatures fleet of foot that you can and send them out to look for the Kings?" Susan asked, turning to the Dwarves.
"I don't like leaving you here by yourselves, your Majesties," answered one of the Dwarves, a black-bearded one with bristling eyebrows and a grumpy face.
"Then you can keep us company, and the others can go. We promise we won't move," said Lucy.
"They should not be able to reach us here," Susan assured when the Dwarves still hesitated. Bowing, four of the seven left, leaving the grumpy one and two of his companions.
"What's your name?" Susan asked.
"Diggertaut, your Majesty, and this here's Brickborn, and he won't talk to anyone he hasn't known for ten years, he's that bashful, and this is Eartaxe, only we call him annoying, as he's always happy, which ain't right in a Dwarf."
"I like that in any person," Lucy responded, smiling at Eartaxe. He smiled widely back, teeth white in the black hair.
"Squirrels are sent, and Birds say the coast is clear!" a Dwarf called down the tunnel, and Diggertaut frowned in its general direction.
"No more news than that?" he yelled back. The girls winced at the volume of his voice.
"A Starling flock says all the statues flew towards the mountains," echoed into the confined space.
"Edmund and Peter," Susan breathed, climbing to her feet.
"We should go find them," Lucy agreed, and Diggertaut scowled at both of them.
"I was told to keep the two of you safe, and that doesn't mean following a flock of enemies into unknown territory outside of Narnia!" He paused. "Your Majesties," he added as a grumpy afterthought.
"But I am no longer in need of quite so much guarding. My brothers may be. We leave now," Susan commanded, and Lucy quickly stopped herself from smiling as her sister's tone silenced the Dwarves' arguments, though not their doubts. Susan ignored that, moving swiftly down the tunnel before Diggertaut could object, and Lucy followed.
"Now," Lucy heard Susan say as the younger Queen climbed into the shadowed sunlight of the forest. "Which way did the statues go?"
Peter kept a careful watch on Edmund as they went. His brother rode on Oreius, as they didn't have horses, and Edmund had vehemently refused the female Bear's offer to carry him like a cub. He had thanked the Bears for their help, however, and invited them to Cair Paravel the following week, Peter echoing the request.
The pain began fading from Edmund's face as they rode, and Peter took heart from that. Edmund had already come too close to paying in life and blood in this adventure. Susan too.
Peter looked forward again, knowing if Edmund caught him watching his brother would grow irritated, but Edmund was the only one Peter could watch. He knew they were in time to save Susan—they had to be, and the Telar Queen hadn't come to life, couldn't have been touched by the crown. Peter looked down at the circlet in his hand. He hadn't yielded it to anyone else to carry, though Edmund hadn't asked. Both Kings had asked if anyone had seen Zedekah trying, and Oreius had assured both brothers that the head and crown had not touched.
But Peter wanted to see Susan, to watch her move and breathe, to give her back her crown and see her hands reach to take it. To have any memory blot out that awful stillness.
They reached one of the tree bridges and crossed, Oreius reaching back to make sure Edmund stayed balanced as he walked above the chasm.
"No, my King, you may not get down and walk over a precarious bridge placed on a deadly chasm while you have a possible head injury," Peter heard. Peter had to smile—and it felt like the lightest thing he'd done in far too long.
"How much further, do you think?" he asked, pushing his hair back and looking up at the setting sun. Part of Peter's mind offered the idea of setting up camp before dark, but the rest of him resisted, wanting to push on till he found his sisters. How much further could it be?
"We're close to where we first met that one Telar, but I doubt they're here. There wasn't much cover to hide in," answered the Dwarf, and Peter frowned. He should have thought of that.
"We should send out what scouts we can find-" he began, only to have a call interrupt him.
Peter whirled, heart pounding at that voice. Edmund, higher than he was, saw their sisters first.
"Susan!" he called, sliding off Oreius so rapidly the Centaur's hand missed catching him. "Susan!"
Peter saw her then, a flash of white and green behind the trees, her skirts gathered in one hand. He ran, tripping on a tree root he didn't see, eyes fixed on his sister. She was running, cheeks flushed, hair bouncing up and down, and skirts crinkling.
Peter reached her seconds before Edmund, wrapping her in a hug, feeling Edmund crash into them a moment later, and he reached one arm around his brother, holding him close. He breathed in, his cheek resting on her head, Edmund's shoulders under his arm, both of his threatened siblings present and safe.
A small arm wrapped around his waist, and he lifted his head to look at Lucy.
"Does anyone need the cordial?"
Peter laughed. Oh, what a joy she was, so valiant in her care! "No, my Queen, the most we suffered were bruises and headaches."
"Speak for yourself," came Edmund's muffled voice. "I suffered quite a bit from worry."
"I'm sorry," answered Susan gently, and Peter closed his eyes again at the sound of it. When he'd seen her lying on the horse, as still as a corpse, he hadn't known if he'd hear it again. Edmund didn't lift his face as he answered her.
"Not your fault, Su."
"Not yours either." She waited, but when Edmund didn't respond, Peter felt her move, and he let her, though he kept a hand on her shoulder, reaching to put the other on Lucy's. Susan pushed Edmund back so he had to look at her. "It wasn't your fault."
Edmund ducked his head down. "I didn't keep you safe."
"I'm not sure anyone could have." Susan hugged him once more. "It happened as Aslan arranged."
Edmund let out his breath in a sigh. "True."
Peter cleared his throat. "Susan." He waited till she turned to him, and then offered her the golden circlet still in his hand.
She looked at it, then back at him. Instead of reaching to take it, she sank down to her knees on the forest floor, her head bowed towards him, skirts spread like a Queen before a throne. Peter looked to his siblings, meeting their proud and joyful gazes, and with gentle hands set Susan's crown on her head. He reached with both hands to lift her to her feet, and bowed to her in turn.
"We give to you, restored, Queen Susan of Narnia," proclaimed Edmund's clear voice, and Peter turned to find the Narnians behind him bowing as well. He clasped Susan's hand in his, Edmund holding hers on the other side and reaching for Lucy's, and together, the Four acknowledged the homage of their people.
It was a joyful moment, though one that did not last. "Your Majesties," Oreius said respectfully, taking a few steps forward. "I present myself for judgement."
"For judgement?" asked the Four at once, though Edmund's face grew grave a moment after asking.
"When Queen Susan's crown nearly touched the head of the statue Queen, I knowingly threw my sword to shatter her. In doing so, though I did not know it at the time, I caused the destruction of the entire race."
"The entire race?" Susan breathed. She opened her mouth in horror, her eyes wide. "All of them?"
"All of them we saw," Peter responded, letting go of her hand to hold her arm.
"But—Juddahum? Sirrioth? The smaller one who followed him around like a kitten?" Lucy asked in a whisper.
Edmund looked at her, and bowed his head. "They gave up hope when the Queen died."
"But it wasn't over!" Lucy objected, her arms flinging wide in protest. "We hadn't even tried to help them yet!" Edmund reached over and pulled her to him, holding her, and she shuddered and began to cry. Susan leaned on Peter, tears beginning to fall down her cheeks as well.
"All of them," she grieved, and across the clearing the Dwarves rested their pickaxes and lowered their heads. But Edmund raised his and looked at Oreius.
"As my sister's protest proves, the race crumbled at their choice. Their deaths are not on your shoulders." The General squared his shoulders and looked back at the King, eyes steady. "The death of the Queen is another matter, as she did die by your hand."
"Oreius?" Susan lifted her head from Peter's shoulder to look at her protector.
"Zedekah held the crown above her brow, and it was a choice between your life and hers, my Queen. I cannot—it was the choice I made. I do not regret my choice, but I do offer it for the judgement of those above me."
Susan hid her face back in Peter's shoulder, and even Edmund turned to him. "By my judgement," Edmund said quietly, "Oreius was the final act on the path where their choices led them." In the quiet, they could all hear Lucy choke back a sob, and Edmund's arms held her closer. Peter looked at Edmund a moment more, his brow furrowed. Slowly the High King looked back to Oreius and spoke.
"You fulfilled your duties as a soldier and protector of Narnia during an attack on her rulers. I thank you for the life of my sister," and Peter's arm tightened around her, "and for your faithful service. I do not condemn you."
"Neither do I," Susan said. Tears still rolled down her cheeks, and she paused to gain control of her voice. "I wish, with all my heart, that we had been able to save them, but I thank you for saving my life." Oreius bowed his head.
"You were fighting our enemies, and you did it well," Lucy put in from the circle of Edmund's arms. "I do not think Aslan would condemn you for that."
A pause where all eyes turned to Edmund. "Aslan died on the Stone Table for a traitor," Edmund began slowly. "He died for me, a mercy I cannot repay, though I serve Him my whole life. His own wish to show that same mercy to all their enemies, to draw even their enemies to the Lion." He hesitated, his eyes flickering from side to side as he searched for words. "We who love Him wish to be like Him, even in that. But there are those who will not receive that mercy. The Fell who followed the Witch would not receive Aslan's mercy, and the Telar would not receive ours. It is right, then, for us to mourn them but not to condemn those who fought them." Sure of his judgement now, his eyes went back to Oreius' bowed head. "The Queen was condemned to death by her own actions, and you had to hasten her sentence in defense of your own Queen. You stand absolved by the Four of us."
"Then let us mourn them," Peter commanded in a strong, deep voice. Together, the Four knelt, Edmund's arms still around Lucy, her hand reaching out to Susan's, and Peter with one hand around Susan as he leaned on the sword his other hand had unsheathed. The Dwarves, with some muttering that Diggertaut quickly silenced, hesitantly knelt as well, and in front of them, Oreius also went to his knees.
Around the clearing, the Dryads stilled the rustling of the trees, and all the small animal noises died away. The only sounds were the sounds of tears as Humans and even the Centaur wept for the people killed by their own lack of self-control and ability to receive mercy.
Lucy wiped her eyes on one sleeve, only to have Susan's hand disappear from her own and appear a moment later holding a handkerchief. Lucy looked up to thank her, only to see the face of the One who comforts all holy sorrows.
"Aslan," she breathed, and the one word turned every face to the edge of the clearing where Aslan stood. His own tears fell down His golden face, falling to the ground in crystal drops.
"Well done." His voice, even in His own grief, carried a peace stronger than rivers. The Narnians felt their own tears flow more freely but their hearts calm in their grief. "There is one thing still to be done," the Lion said, and each Narnian rose to his or her feet. "Follow me."
Peter, sheathing his sword, offered his arm to Susan and followed without a word. Edmund and Lucy fell in next, Lucy again wiping away her tears and feeling truly safe for the first time since their kidnapping. Aslan was ahead. Behind her, she could hear the quiet footsteps of the rest of the Narnians.
He led them for an hour through the woods, and Lucy began to recognise the trees. She'd seen them while looking for Susan, that night before Khonat came, and as a thought occurred to her, the heart within her began to beat fast with hope.
She looked ahead.
There, in the clearing where they had camped, stood Khonat. He remained still, his hands resting at his sides, his eyes looking down. But he was not in tiny stone pieces, and before him stood Aslan, the Lion whose very breath was life to the dead. Lucy looked at Him with her eyes shining.
The Narnians spilled out from behind her, spreading in a circle around the clearing as Aslan, drawing in a deep breath, blew on the large Telar. Lucy watched with dawning wonder as she saw what she'd seen before, legs turning from stone to flesh, color racing like a flame through the stomach, the shoulders, spreading to where his wings once reached and turning that air to white, fluffy feathers. Lucy caught back a cry of joy as she saw his flight restored. Her eyes flew back to the washing of color and life that was reaching, at last, the head. A moment later, Khonat blinked. "You have to flee, your Maj-"
His words ceased as he saw the Lion, and instantly, he fell to his knees. His shoulders heaved as he drew in gasps of air, needing to breathe for the first time in a hundred years but his breath taken away by the Lion before him.
"Peace," Aslan reassured, His voice warm and strong. "You have done well." He leaned forward and gave a Lion's kiss, then turned to the Four. "Care for him well." He turned and left.
No one spoke as He left, though all eyes watched Him, but after He was gone, the Four turned to their new charge and their former saviour.
"Khonat," said four voices at once, and his eyes turned to them. Susan walked forward first, taking his hand, and he started.
"I can feel that," he said in wonder. He reached his other hand up and touched her shoulder. "I can feel that," he said again.
Lucy laughed, and stood on tiptoes to hug his shoulders, still hardly tall enough even as he knelt. "And this?"
"And that!" He looked from the two Queens to the two Kings. "All of you are well?"
"Yes," Edmund returned gravely, walking to stand right before him. "But your people have perished."
Khonat closed his eyes, his wings falling beneath the tops of his shoulders. "It is what we chose, when we chose magic as our saviour," he whispered.
"Not we," Lucy said fiercely. "Not you. Aslan restored you to us."
His eyes opened and turned to her, looking lost.
"You have our thanks for your help and our lives," Peter said, his ringing voice drawing all attention. He stood tall, his crown on his head, and all the Narmians straightened in response. "If you would like to come, we would be pleased to give you a place in Narnia, to be a part of our people and under our care."
"To have a new home," Lucy said, her small arms still around his shoulders.
"To give you a King to follow again," Susan added softly.
"To live," Edmund finished, and the Four waited.
"To live," Khonat agreed, slowly getting to his feet. He bowed, hands clasped together, to each of his new Kings and Queens. "Thank you for my life," he added quietly.
"Live it for Aslan, and we will thank you for it," the crowned High King responded, and each of his siblings smiled in agreement.
A/N: and thus ends my one-shot.
Ha ha ha. It's 79 pages.