Whumptober Alternate Prompt 11: Presumed Dead
Written for all those who stuck with me till the end of this experiment, and who, I'm pretty sure, hated Lucy's death as much as I did. Here, brainstormed with BellatrixTheStar, is the sequel to prompt 19, "Mourning Loved Ones - Narnia." Thank Bellatrix for the sequel; without that encouragement I probably wouldn't have written it.
Such a small motion, a tightening of the muscles in her throat—a drinking down of the drop of cordial.
A miracle, for (though she did not know it) she had been dead, unable to swallow, to breath, to heal, but she swallowed, and the cordial fullfilled its promise. It healed the ten burn marks on her face and opened her throat, allowing her to breathe. Her eyes flickered open just in time to catch a golden light vanishing from the room.
She put her hand to her throat. There had been something there—a necklace chain—she'd been reaching for it, hadn't she?
No, it was her cordial! She'd sent it away, with the Robin. She'd needed her dagger instead, someone—someone had been behind her!
Lucy thrust herself up on her hands, looking around wildly. She caught her breath.
She was laying on a small table of stone, just long enough for her body, and around the table burned torches, twelve of them, two at her feet and head and four on each side. She was cold, she realised, rubbing her arms. She looked down at the material, and realised she was dressed in a pure white dress, scooped at the waist and long in the arms, and very thin. She shivered again.
She looked past the torches and realised she was in a large, underground room, one of the lowest ones of Cair Paravel.
"No wonder it's so cold," she said out loud. She slid off the table, two careful hands on the two nearest torches, and slid between them. "I'd better head to the kitchens," she said to herself, her teeth beginning to chatter. "There should be a warm drink—and soup—and warm bread. And Squirrels and Birds, who always know everything, and they can tell me if the others are all right."
But when she reached the kitchen she found it empty. The fire was banked, and the table cleared—but over there, the dishes weren't done. They were just sitting dirty in the sink. And it was too light. She frowned out the window. The sunset was just beginning; supper should be halfway through, and the kitchen bustling.
"No warm bread, or cider," she told herself resignedly. She went to one of the cupboards—Mrs. Wilkins', she didn't mind if hungry people took the food she had stored there—and got some bread. It wasn't warm, but it filled her up, and she sat as close as she could to the glowing embers till she stopped shivering.
And in all that time, not one Narnian entered the kitchen. As Lucy's brain unfroze, she realised how odd that was. I'd better go find the others, and make sure they're all right. Her hand went to her neck out of habit. If they had the cordial, they should be fine.
So she told herself, as she walked out of the kitchen and climbed the three flights of stairs towards Susan's rooms. That's where they usually gathered for an informal supper, or breakfast, or tea.
And it would have to be informal, because there wasn't a single Narnian in sight. Lucy quickened her steps, running as swiftly and lightly up as she could.
She arrived breathless in the hallway, raising her hand to knock on the door, only to stop as she heard Peter's voice.
"I'm telling you now, leave us to our grief!"
"But sir," a voice whined in reply, "I don't think she's dead. At least, not all the way dead. And if I could just see her-"
"No." Susan responded, and Lucy flinched, for the normally Gentle voice whipped through the air.
"All of our subjects but you have given us space for mourning. It took hours for our sister to get us up here to even try to eat. Go away, you cracked bundle of sticks." And that—Lucy had not heard Edmund sound like that since before.
Something was definitely wrong. She pushed the door open and stepped inside.
All three siblings had turned at the opening of the door and were staring at her, white-faced. In one corner stood an Oak Dryad, and though Edmund had been cruel when he called him cracked, he hadn't exactly been wrong, for a deep crack ran through the face and body, between his eyes and around his mouth.
How odd. Lucy looked back at the others.
"Lucy?" Susan breathed in an aching voice. "Lucy?!"
"You're a ghost," whispered Peter, trembling from head to foot. "Oh Lucy, I'm so sorry."
Edmund, white than he'd been when facing the Witch, could say nothing.
And Lucy didn't know what to say. What was Peter sorry for?
"No, definitely not a ghost, your Majesties, see her color is quite healthy, and if she takes a step—if you would, Queen Lucy, thank you, hear that? Ghosts don't make footfalls."
The cheerful babbling of the Dryad broke through the frozen fear of her siblings, and Peter, still trembling, walked forward and reached out one shaking hand. Lucy let him, still not quite sure what was happening, only that Peter looked as if he needed this. He touched her hair, her cheek, and she could feel him shaking.
"I'm right here," she told him, and his hand spasmed at the sound of her voice. But he looked back at her, seeing her trusting eyes turned up to his, and suddenly he was grabbing her in both arms, pulling her close and weeping on her hair.
"Peter?" came Edmund's high voice, and Peter's laugh and sob came out together.
"She's here! She's, she's breathing!"
"Lucy!" came the chorus, and other hands were grabbing her, pulling her, pulling Peter along with her, because he didn't let go, and her face was mashed into Susan's shoulder, Edmund's arms around her waist.
"I'm here," she said, because she couldn't think of anything else to stay to their repeated cries of her name. "I woke up downstairs."
"Oh, Lucy," choked Susan. "I had to get them to eat, I had to, none of us wanted to leave you alone, but we couldn't leave just one of us down there alone either, I'm so sorry,-"
Lucy slid one arm around Susan, and the other around Edmund's neck, reaching to Peter's shoulder. "Have you eaten yet?"
All three gasped out broken laughter. "No, none of us could," Peter replied, his voice still shaking.
"Come," Susan said, pulling Lucy—and therefore the other two—to the table. "Come and eat."
Lucy sat down with the others, though Peter didn't sit, staying behind her, and the other two kept a hand on her shoulders, and served herself some soup. The others watched her take a bite.
"There, your Majesties, see? Not dead. The dead don't eat."
"Not dead," repeated Edmund, almost like a prayer of praise.
Peter's hands fell on her head. "Not dead," and it was a benediction, and Susan dropped her face into her hands.
"Not dead," she agreed with a sob.
Lucy stopped eating. "I was dead?"
"The Hag—do you remember the Hag?" asked Peter. And suddenly Lucy did, the dark Hag she'd stabbed with her dagger, and the fingertips on her face.
"Oh," she whispered. "And that—that killed me?"
"We brought you home," Edmund whispered, as if that were answer enough. And perhaps it was; or perhaps the answer was ihhhjjin the paleness of their faces, the red eyes and the pain.
"I'm sorry," said Lucy. "I am sorry."
"You're alive," Peter responded, hands coming around to hug her, and the others did the same. "You're not dead."
"Ah," said the Dryad wisely. "I told she was only mostly dead."*
*BellatrixTheStar had the incredible idea of doing a Princess Bride crossover by having Miracle Max make an appearance (Lucy being only mostly dead), but I couldn't get the mad, brilliant humor to work after the grieving prequel, so I only referenced it. Wouldn't it have been cool, though?