Chronology: This story is set between "Cloud Fathers" and "Ill Met By Moonlight." In the Narnia universe, it is a "missing chapter" occurring before Eustace gets turned into a dragon.
Comments, howls of indignation, and suggestions are always welcome.
"All things have rest: why should we toil alone...
Still from one sorrow to another thrown;
Nor ever fold our wings
And cease from wanderings..."
--from "The Lotos-Eaters" by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
"Where are we?" Elisa said, crouching low in the skiff with her hands gripping the sides. The boat heaved up and down, carried by the waves of deep ocean. It was twilight -- just before dawn. A thin pink line began to grow at the vanishing point of the horizon.
"Dawn is upon us," Goliath said, scanning the empty ocean, before his eyes fell on Elisa. "I do not like our turning to stone, leaving you to face -- whatever -- alone."
Bronx put his forepaws on the sides of the skiff and sniffed at the air. Then he gave an odd rumble -- not a growl, but sort of a grunt of sheer happiness.
Elisa looked out over the dark water that was beginning to lighten with the impending sunrise. The air was warm and salty and clean -- it was the cleanest air she had ever breathed, and that included not only New York City but every place they had visited on this strange journey, from Prague to Ulster. She began to feel very odd. The tiredness from their endless journeying seemed to fall away somewhat, and Elisa no longer dreaded whatever might lie ahead.
"I'll be fine," Elisa said. "I don't know why, but somehow I have the feeling that there is nothing to worry about."
The sun began to rise, suffusing the horizon with a burning pink. The last stars faded in the paling sky, and as the sun tipped up over the edge of the ocean it sent a river of golden light across the waves, in a line that intersected the skiff. Goliath, Angela, and Bronx turned to stone with a cracking noise, facing the sunrise. The growing light struck the stone statues, casting their shadows onto the water behind them. As the skiff continued to drift, Elisa watched the sun rise, until a beautiful, clear morning dawned. The ocean turned a startling blue, and the lighter blue of the deep, endless looking sky arched down like a glass dome to touch the horizon of the ocean.
Waves slapped up against the sides of the skiff. Elisa squinted in the sunlight and trailed her fingers in the water. The question was, why had Avalon sent them there? There was no land nor creature nor anything else in sight -- just the endless ocean. "Water, water everywhere..." Elisa quoted, then trailed off. And what if they did drift here for days, even weeks, without a supply of fresh water? Elisa felt the strong, brave feeling waver slightly.
Turning to look behind her, towards the west, Elisa suddenly froze. There was something moving at the horizon, coming closer. She stood up carefully and watched. She was facing away from the sun, so it was easy to see clearly.
As the object came closer and closer, Elisa automatically reached for her gun before she remembered she was out of bullets. Astonished, she made out the front of the object that rushed towards the skiff, slicing the water before it into rivers of foam.
It looked like a dragon's head. Elisa felt a moment of alarm before she realized it was not a sea-monster of some sort, but the prow of a single-masted, wooden sailing ship. On either side of the prow rose carved wooden dragon wings. The sunlight glinted off the gilding on the dragon head and revealed with startling brightness the deep violet sail, taut with the wind, and the green sides of the hull. Elisa had never seen a ship like that in her life. It made the towering, four-masted sailing ships that docked in New York Harbor look like toy tugboats, although ten of this dragon-ship would fit in one of those. As the ship drew closer, she made out figures on the deck and up in the rigging.
It almost looked as if the ship would bear down on the skiff if something wasn't done. Elisa waved her arms in the air, feeling, a bit like an idiot.
"Ahoy!" She yelled.
Someone on the fighting top called out down to his fellow crew-mates. Slowly, the majestic little ship turned, and slowed.
"Ahoy!" A fair-haired young man wearing a tunic and a sword leaned over the side of the boat. "Are you in need of assistance, my lady?"
"Uh...thank you," she called back.
Several other figures appeared beside the first, a dark- haired, older man in chain mail, and two children, a boy and a girl, both also in tunics. The boy, apparently the older of the two, didn't look more than eleven or twelve.
"Rynelf," the fair-haired boy called back to a crew-member, "have the men put together a block and tackle so we may take the lady's exquisite statues on board."
The dark haired man threw Elisa a rope, and soon the skiff was lashed alongside the sailing ship. Helping hands reached down to pull her aboard, but Elisa moved out of reach.
"No," she called up to them. "Not until my...statues are on board." *Whoever these people are, they're in for a shock this evening,* she thought.
With Goliath, Angela, and Bronx rested safely on deck like outre ship ornaments, Elisa allowed herself to be pulled aboard.
"And tell us, fair lady, why is one such as yourself adrift on the ocean with an odd collection of art?" The golden-haired young man titled his head and looked at her curiously. "I cannot place your land of origin. You don't look like a Telmarine, or a Terebinthian. Certainly not a Narnian."
The girl, who wore her dark hair tied back with two ribbons, an arrangement which seemed at odds with her medieval-style tunic, looked at Elisa carefully. "Actually, she looks like she's from *our* world. Although I don't know any women who wear denim. Do women wear trousers in America?"
"I think you're right, Luce," said the boy. He smiled at Elisa, and held out his hand. Elisa took it. "I'm Edmund, this is my sister Lucy. And this is our friend, King Caspian, ruler of Narnia."
The fair-haired boy chuckled. "As always, their majesties are too modest. King Edmund and Queen Lucy are a High King and Queen of Narnia as well. And this is the Lord Drinian, the captain," he added, gesturing to the dark-haired man, who bowed.
"Um...nice to meet you," Elisa said uncertainly. "I -- uh -- I'm Elisa Maza, detective second class, NYPD." She pulled out her badge.
The others leaned in to stare at it. King Caspian and Lord Drinian looked puzzled, but Lucy and Edmund seemed impressed.
"Are you a real detective?" Edmund asked, eyes wide.
Elisa chuckled, tucking her badge back into her jacket. "Last time I checked. Uh, Lucy, what did you mean when you said you thought I was from your world?"
"Oh, you know, where we live when we aren't being a King and Queen of Narnia. My brother and I are from London."
It might have been the hot sun beating down on her head, but Elisa began to feel a bit woozy. "Narnia?"
"Well sure," Edmund said matter-of-factly. "I guess you don't remember getting here in the first place, or you would know that you've come to a totally different world."
"Oh, puhlease," said a young, disagreeable voice from the other side of the deck. A sulky, seasick looking boy was leaning against the rail, watching them. "You never explain anything right." The boy gave a martyred sigh and came over to join them. Elisa saw Lord Drinian's mouth twitch with disgust.
"You see, me and my cousins, like you, are from the real world. But we fell into this blasted painting of this blasted ship, and now here we are. We're just ordinary kids, mind you, but everyone here has the idea that Edmund and Lucy are a king and queen. Really, it's ridiculous." The boy rolled his eyes, and Elisa found herself not liking him much.
"This is our cousin Eustace," Edmund said resignedly. "Don't listen to him. But, please tell us, do you know how you got here?"
Elisa considered. Well, anything she said couldn't possibly sound as far-out as their story. "I'm from New York, originally. But Avalon is sending us to different places around the world via bodies of water. We're trying to get back home...but so far no luck."
"Avalon -- you mean like King Arthur..."
The golden-haired king scratched his head. "We?" He said, his eyes going to the stone gargoyles.
"Your Majesty," piped a rich but high-pitched voice. Edmund and Lucy stepped aside, revealing...well, it seemed to be...a two foot mouse, standing on its hind legs. It wore a gold band across its forehead that stood out against its black fur. A jaunty red feather was stuck behind one of its furry ears. At its waist it wore a mouse-sized sword.
"Your majesty, may I be so bold as to suggest we continue our journey? That was a fine wind we had earlier. I beg the lady's pardon," the mouse said, bowing low to Elisa in a courtly fashion. "I am most pleased that we were able to come to your assistance, and am deeply gratified to see you safe and well. However, I beg you to understand that I have the strongest of reasons to continue east."
"Of course," Elisa replied, feeling a bit unreal. Of course, how much harder was it to accept a talking two-foot mouse with a sword than the reality of the gargoyles? Elisa thought that the mouse, like Goliath, might feel highly insulted if she showed any surprise, or any assumption that he was not sentient and capable of articulate speech.
"Point taken, Reepicheep." King Caspian turned to the captain. "Drinian?"
Lord Drinian nodded, and began distributing orders to get the ship under way again.
Reepicheep bowed once more to Elisa. His gallantry touched her, and she awkwardly bent her jean-clad legs in an approximation of a curtsey. The mouse held out a paw to her. "My lady, if I might have the honor of showing you about our vessel?"
Elisa reached down and took the mouse's paw, which seemed swallowed up in her hand, but the mouse didn't seem to notice. Something in the mouse's demeanor suggested that he was a true warrior, with a towering fierce spirit underneath the small form.
Reepicheep, Edmund, Lucy, and Caspian showed her all over the ship. Everything from the clean, light-filled rowing galley to the upper decks were well-made, sleek, and small but efficient. Standing behind the mast-head with Edmund and Lucy, with the wind at their backs and the sun in their faces, Elisa wondered that she had ever been tired of traveling by boat. Of course, the skiff was nothing to the ship -- The Dawn Treader, they called it.
As the ship raced along in full sail, the shadows of Goliath, Angela, and Bronx shifted in relation to the sun. The crew seemed to leave the "statues" along, accepting them as part of the scenery.
After the mid-day meal, Elisa began to feel drowsy. Over Elisa's protests, Lucy insisted that Elisa lie down in her cabin.
"Actually, it's Caspian's cabin -- it was really too good of him to let me have it."
"Oh sure," Elisa heard Eustace mutter as Lucy led Elisa away. "Let the total stranger have the good cabin now."
The cabin was dim, cool, and comfortable. There was a lamp hanging from the ceiling that was like nothing Elisa had ever seen before. She stared at the intricate metal work for a long time before a picture on the wall caught her attention. It was a realistic painting of the golden face of a lion. Its eyes seemed remarkably alive, fierce and frightening, but oddly comforting as well.
~What a strange world this is,~ Elisa thought, touching her fingers to the image.
She found herself standing on a high headland, ankle deep in green, wind-rippled grass. Beyond the edge of the cliff nothing was visible save the clouds. The wind tugged at her, pushing her towards the precipice, but without fear she pushed against it, moving away from the edge.
There were woods, lush green woods lining the endless gentle slope of the back end of the headland. It somehow reminded her of Avalon, but it seemed greener, sharper, than Avalon could ever be.
"Daughter of Eve," a voice, deep, terrible, gentle, spoke behind her.
A few yards away stood a very large, very golden lion with a great mane and a huge head. It was as big as a horse, maybe bigger. Elisa let out a small startled breath, not yet alarm. She could feel the weight of her gun in its holster, but she had no urge to reach for it. The lion's eyes were dark and calm, extremely wise. She stared back at the lion, the wind whipping at her long dark hair, one hand resting lightly on her hip the other hanging down.
"You are not afraid of me?" The lion asked, with a touch of amusement.
"No....should I be?"
The lion cocked its head to one side. "What do you think?"
"Well," Elisa said wryly, "Under normal circumstances, in this situation I'd probably be headed for the nearest tree. But these aren't ... normal circumstances."
"No, indeed not, Elisa Maza, Daughter of Eve."
"Who...." her eyes narrowed. "Who are you?"
"I have many names," the lion said calmly, sitting back on its haunches like some gigantic housecat. "You may call me Aslan."
"Aslan." Elisa let the name roll off her tongue. "Um, Aslan, am I dreaming?"
"If you mean are you really asleep right now, yes. If you mean, is this real ... well, that is something else entirely. You have a purpose and a quest to fulfill."
Elisa moved forward, then stopped. Cautiously, haltingly, she reached out her hand and touched the lion's mane. When Aslan didn't seem to mind, she ran her fingers through it lightly. The huge lion began to purr with a sound like a Harley Davidson engine revving up. Not wanting to press her luck, Elisa pulled her hand back.
The lion looked at her closely. She felt its breath whuffling over her face, the front of her jacket and t-shirt. "You are a friend to the Children of Stone. A good friend. They will need you more than ever in the coming trials."
She felt her throat close. "You mean....you mean we aren't going home soon? My friends and I...we're tired. Goliath misses his clan...." She paused and put her hand to her forehead, then lowered it. "You wouldn't believe some of the things that have happened to us." "You will be home sooner than you think," the lion said, with a sharp, amused look at her last sentence. "But then the real journey will begin." Aslan flicked his tail. "Listen to me, child, and remember what I tell you. The blow that hurts does not always harm. Be awake, and watchful, and aware, and do not lose sight of what it is you and the Children of Stone are seeking. If you do, all is lost, not just here in Narnia but in your own world as well."
"What do you...."
"Remember," the lion said sternly.
Elisa nodded. "Uh....okay."
"No!" The lion cried, getting to his feet and throwing his great head back to the blue, cloud-studded sky. "Say it back to me," he added, looking at her.
"Say it!" The lion roared.
Elisa flinched and covered her ears with her hands. "'Not all thorns that sting are harmful. Be awake, and watchful, and aware, and do not lose sight of what it is Goliath and Angela and Bronx and I are seeking. If we do, all is lost, not just here in Narnia but in our own world as well.'" She finished and looked at him, a bit crossly, as she used to look at her father after he had lectured her over some misbehavior and then asked her if she understood.
Aslan gave a cat-like smile, and nudged her shoulder gently with his muzzle. "Be well, Elisa. You have a courageous heart; do not ever give up." The lion turned to go.
"Wait..." Elisa said, hesitantly.
Patiently, Aslan turned back. "Yes?"
"Are you ... I can't figure out ...are you a Child of Oberon?"
A deep, rolling chuckle rumbled out of the lion's throat. "I, a Child of Oberon? No, in fact you might say just the opposite."
Before she could answer, the lion was gone, and she was alone on the windswept headland once more.
In the darkend cabin, Elisa sat up with a start and put her hand to her face. How long had she been asleep?
The lantern was out, and she could feel the gentle, back-and-forth motion of the ship, which created a soft creaking sound. Fumbling in the dark, she rose from the bunk and opened the port-hole shutter, letting in the dim light of fading dusk.
She stopped, seeing the painting of the lion of the wall. Her dream was still with her, etched sharply in her mind, not like a normal dream which already begins to fade as soon as the sleeper wakes.
Then she heard from the deck above a familiar, bellowing roar.
"Goliath!" Elisa ran across the dim cabin, tripped on a chair, yanked open the door, and staggered out into the hollow space in the hull where the ship's oars were located. For a moment she paused, confused, until she found the wooden steps leading up on deck.
A few stars glimmered in the clear night. At the horizon a faint red glow lingered.
Bronx was up on his hind legs, forepaws on the mast. The boy with the disagreeable expression, Eustace, was halfway up the mast, his arms and legs wrapped around it as if it were a tree trunk. His eyes were squeezed tightly shut and he was yelling in a high pitched voice: "Get it away, get it away, it's going to eat me!"
The gargoyle dog whuffed inquisitively, his stumpy tail wagging. But Elisa didn't have time to rescue Eustace.
On the deck, Angela stood with her eyes blazing red, her wings flared, facing Edmund, Lucy, and Drinian. The captain had pulled his sword, but had not yet attacked. The two children watched, calm but expectant, as if they knew Angela wouldn't hurt them and they were merely waiting for her to calm down.
Goliath held Caspian dangling by the front of his tunic. There were stone chips all over the deck.
"Where is Elisa?" Goliath bellowed, so forcefully that the young man's blond curls blew back.
Caspian swallowed. "Sir," he gasped, his hands grasping at Goliath's massive wrists, "I can assure you the lady is safe and unharmed and at this moment is resting comfortably in Queen Lucy's cabin."
"Goliath!" Elisa hurried forward. "I'm okay."
The gargoyle turned and when he saw her the glow faded from his eyes. "Elisa?" However, his grip on Caspian did not slacken.
"Put him down," Elisa said quietly. "You might hurt him."
Goliath looked at the slender young man dangling from his talons. His grip loosened and he set the prince down on the deck. Caspian staggered as his knees buckled, but he recovered, grabbing the rail.
Suddenly a small, ebony, figure streaked fiercely between the prince and the gargoyle. A pencil-thin, sharp sword gleamed in the light of the ship's lanterns.
"How dare you, sirrah?" Reepicheep squeeked angrily. "You have insulted and threatened the person of King Caspian of Narnia. For that you will feel the touch of my sword."
From his eight foot height, Goliath looked down at the mouse. For a moment his expression was one of almost disbelief. But then it gave way to something else ... respect.
As the mouse raised its paw, poising the sword somewhere around Goliath's midsection, the gargoyle stepped back, cloaked his wings, and bowed at the waist.
"I apologize for mistakenly insulting your king," he said gallantly, "and for alarming you. Be assured that I and my friends mean you no harm."
Slowly, the glow left Angela's eyes, and Reepicheep lowered his sword.
"Please," Caspian said, putting his palm to his chest. "Do not apologize. I see that were only concerned for the welfare of the Lady Elisa. Be assured that you are among friends aboard The Dawn Treader."
"Lucy," Elisa heard Edmund whisper, "They are Talking Beasts. But in all our time in Narnia, have you ever seen such beings?" The boy stared at Angela, awe-struck.
"Get this monster away from me!" Eustace yelled from the mast.
Angela quickly went to Bronx and put her hand on his head. "Come on, boy," she said. "Down, Bronx."
Bronx dropped his forepaws with a thud that shook the ship, whined, and licked Angela's hand.
The young female gargoyle reached her other hand up to Eustace. "Here, let me help you down."
But Eustace shrank away from her touch. "No! Monster!"
The hurt expression on Angela's face gave Elisa the almost irresistible urge to dump Eustace over the side.
"Angela," she said, her voice hard. "You'd better leave him up there."
"I'm sorry about my cousin," Edmund said. "This is his first time in Narnia."
Elisa sighed. "I'm afraid this isn't a problem limited to newcomers to Narnia."
"I don't believe we've been introduced," Lucy said to the gargoyles. She held out her hand to Angela, a grin on her round, pretty face. "I'm Lucy, this is my brother Edmund, and that's Eustace," she added, wrinkling her nose.
Her face softening, Angela took Lucy's hand. "I am Angela. This my father, Goliath, and this is Bronx."
Bronx sniffed at Lucy's boots. The girl knelt and scratched him under the chin. "Isn't he marvellous!" She exclaimed in delight. "But ... he is not a Talking Beast, like the two of you?"
"Silly," Edmund poked Lucy in the ribs. "He's their dog."
"That has nothing to do with it, Edmund, and you know it."
"Bronx does not speak any tongue used by one of the three races," Goliath explained. Then he glanced at Bronx, and in a moment of wry humor added, "Although sometimes I have the feeling he is trying to talk to us, and we just can't understand."
Bronx grumbled something unintelligible, his eyes on Goliath.
Caspian watched Angela, a small half-smile of wonder on his face. "I have never heard of creatures such as you. What race do you call yourselves?"
"We are gargoyles," Goliath said.
"Gargoyles are drainspouts on cathedrals," Eustace yelled nastily from the mast.
"Not always, smarty," Edmund called back. "Haven't you ever studied Gothic architecture?" He turned back to Goliath. "Although I've never heard of any that came to life before," he said, a bit wistfully.
"Can you fly with those wings?" Lucy asked.
"Glide," Angela corrected.
With his crew clustered in a half-circle behind him, gaping, Caspian gestured widely at the ship. "Welcome to The Dawn Treader," he said.
Eventually Eustace came down from the mast, but he wouldn't go near the gargoyles. Elisa spent some time telling Edmund, Lucy, and Caspian about life in New York City in 1995.
The stars increased their number and brightness as the compact, swift vessel rushed through the water, driven by a fresh, high wind.
Elisa joined Goliath on the foredeck while Caspian and Edmund showed Angela how to work the ship's tiller up on the poop deck. Lucy crouched beside Bronx, who lay sprawled on a coil of rope. Occasionally, she would scratch his side with a small, curved stick and Bronx would scrape the talons of his hindquarters along the deck in dog-like delight.
The wind rushed at Goliath and Elisa, with an exhilarating sense of spped. There was a gentle smell of brine and wood and dampness. Elisa pushed back a strand of hair that had blown in her eyes and rested her hands on the wooden railing. She found it hard to believe that she had ever been tired of travelling by boat.
"So, enjoying life on a sailing ship, Goliath?" She asked, giving him a sideways glance.
Close beside her, Goliath drew in a deep breath, his chest expanding. Then he let it out. He turned to Elisa, a rare, broad smile on his face. "I think I like it very much," he said.
Elisa tried to picture Goliath in a double-breasted coat, breeches, and a captain's hat and nearly laughed out loud.
Sunrise seemed to come all too soon. Lucy, Edmund, and the others clustered around the three stone statues anxiously. The rigging creaked in the quiet of the young post-dawn light.
"Are they all right?" Lucy asked, touching Angela's shoulder.
Reepicheep stood facing Goliath, looking up at the stone figure that seemed to tower over the mouse. "Truly, he makes a noble statue," he said admiringly.
Elisa looked at all the worried faces (save Eustace, who was still asleep in his cabin), and laughed. "Look, trust me, it's okay. This is supposed to happen."
Rynelf shook his head. "I have never in all my travels encountered such creatures."
"Hm. You don't get around much, do you?" Elisa said, raising an eyebrow.
When the sailor only stared at her, Elisa raised her hands. "I'm kidding."
Elisa spent the day getting her "sea legs," as the sailors called it. But by mid-afternoon, as she rapidly and sure-footedly scaled the rigging to the crow's nest, the sailors were giving her admiring glances.
"You climb as if you had wings," Caspian called up after her.
"It all depends on the company you keep," she yelled back down, the wind whipping her words away.
In every direction she looked, Elisa could see only the sea, stretching to meet the horizon. She wondered why Avalon had sent them there -- unless it was merely for a vacation, which she doubted.
She doubted it very much.
Some time after sunset, the cry came from the crow's nest: "Land in sight! Off the port bow!"
With Angela and Goliath, Elisa went to the ship's rail to see. Stars provided some illumination, she could make out a long, low, dark shape on the horizon, and a few wispy night clouds that shrouded the lower-hanging stars. Bronx put his forepaws up on the rail next to her, barking and growling.
"Hush, Bronx," said Angela.
When they had drawn closer to the island the crew of The Dawn Treader layed anchor.
Goliath, Elisa, and Angela went ashore in Edmund, Lucy, and Reepicheep's boat. Eustace flatly refused to ride with the gargoyles.
Seated in the bow, Angela cast a disgusted glance at the other boat. "Are you sure you're related?" She asked Lucy.
Lucy, holding a lantern to light their way, looked embarrassed. "I know he can be irritating -- but underneath he's all right, really."
"Way underneath," Edmund muttered, earning a warning glance from his sister.
Elisa looked back and saw Bronx peering over the side of the ship, watching them. He whined anxiously.
"Don't worry, Bronx," she called, cupping her hands over her mouth. "We'll be fine."
"Guard the ship," Goliath ordered.
Bronx grumbled, and dropped out of sight.
The island came nearer, becomming more visible. Its shored were edged with clean white sand that seemed to give off its own glow. The interior was lush and green. Out of it rose a rocky cliff where a waterfall cascaded down.
The torchlight cast a glimmering gold sheen on the water. With a slight jolt, the bottom of the boats scraped the sand, and they all stepped out into the warm, ankle-deep surf to pull the boats up above the tideline.
Elisa released the gunwales of the boat and stood on the sand, feeling the wind tickle at her hair. She breathed deeply, inhaling the sweet, distant scene of some unidentifiable flower that grew along the edge of the greenery.
"Oh, isn't it beautiful?" Angela, her wings cloaked over her shoulders, turned in a half-circle, looking. "It -- it reminds me of Avalon," she said, a bit sadly.
Goliath's expression was more mellow that Elisa had ever seen it. "Yes, it is nice, isn't it?" Something crunched under his large foot, and he knelt to pick up the object, a flower. Before it had been crushed, it had been large, as big as Goliath's hand, with snow white petals streaked with delicate red lines. The damaged petals gave off a heady scent.
Lucy stuck her burning torch flame-up in the sand, while Rynelf did the same with his. The two torchese sent a flickering red light over the sand and lit the edge of the green. The light revealed thick, moss-covered trunks, blossom-studded foliage, and massive vines that curled about each other.
"Now, this is something like." Edmund stretched out on the sand with his arms folded behind his head.
"And no more of that beastly rocking back and forth on board," Eustace added in satisfaction.
The crew of The Dawn Treader pitched camp and settled around the torches. Seated cross-legged on the sand, the firelight playing over her dark hair, Angela began to tell Lucy, Edmund, and the others about Princess Katherine, The Guardian, the Magus, and Avalon.
Lucy tilted her head to one side thoughtfully. "I don't think Avalon sounds much like this island."
Edmund nodded. "You're right, Luce. I think Avalon sounds more like ... Narnia."
Seated next to Goliath on the sand, Elisa listened drowsily with her head on Goliath's shoulder. Goliath seemed happy and relaxed, sitting with one knee drawn up as he leaned back on one hand. His other hand rested near Elisa's, her fingers and his talons pillowed on the sand millimeters from each other.
Reepicheep the mouse yawned and curled up on the sand, his black fur stark against the white.
"This is a lovely island," he said, blinking sleepily beneath his gold band, which glinted in the firelight. "Perhaps -- I could just stay here for a while ... finish going east later ..."
Through the peaceful haze, a tiny pin-prick of unease told Elisa that there was something wrong with the mouse king's statement. As she drifted off to sleep, it also occurred to her that they should have posted a watch -- and she wondered why Goliath hadn't said something about it either.
She blinked awake to bright sunlight shining in her eyes. Her head was resting on the soft sand. Nearby, Angela and Goliath sat in stone form, Angela with her legs folded beneath her, Goliath with one elbow resting on his knee in an almost lackadaisical posture. It had a certain charm, Elisa thought, regarding his statue; but again some inner stirring told her this was unusual, out of place -- that he should have been crouched, ready for battle, or frozen in a snarl, talons curled. Oh well. Elisa shrugged. Perhaps the gargoyles just felt safe here -- as they all seemed to.
The torches had gone out, leaving blackened ends. The sailors from The Dawn Treader were waking up. Only Eustace was still out, lying on his back, snoring. Edmund and Lucy's boots lay discarded on the sand while the two children waded lazily in the warm surf.
Elisa got to her feet and shed her red bomber jacket; the beach was growing warmer. In the daylight, the colors of the island, so muted at night, seemed to blaze: green and scarlet and gold and blue against the white sand. The buds on the foliage seemed to open even as she stared at them.
"Well," Elisa remarked, to no one in particular, "It's been a while since I've had a vacation. I could get used to this."
Caspian, his golden curls bright in the sun, sat with Lord Drinian and his crew. Reepicheep had set aside his sword and scabbard and was sunning himself on a large rock at the edge of the greenery. Elisa perched on another rock nearby, watching Edmund and Lucy play in the surf.
And so another day passed in a warm blur filled with the sound of the tide, the men's laughter, sunlight, the rustling of leaves, and everywhere the scent of flowers.
No one seemed to feel any thirst or hunger; it seemed to Elisa that the odor of so many different flowers was so rich it carried nutrients on the very wind.
The sun progressed in its arc through the sky. Shadows changed position. In the late afternoon, a breeze sprang up, ruffling the water. The sun began to set.
A memory flashed at Elisa like the glint of light on water, but so vague she could hardly recall where it came from. The spicy scent of hot dogs, the verdant green of a park, streets thronged with people, the harsh, sharp steel lines of a building -- and sunset, lancing down concrete gorges, reflected blindingly off of sheer glass walls. Of a shadow creeping over six stone statues that were already starting to stir with life within ...
Elisa, who had been standing near the water's edge with her eyes fixed on the hypnotic advance and retreat of the tide, started.
In the distance she saw a ship with a dragon's head for a prow. It seemed significant for some reason.
Without any particular purpose in mind, Elisa turned, wandered off the beach, and pushed her way into the dense forest. No one called her back or asked where she was going.
She climbed over or ducked thick vines. Huge leaves, heart-shaped and waxy, brushed against her bare arms. The scent of the flowers seemed to intensify, enclosed by the forest. And yet through her detached, dream-like perception, she felt a faint, humming undercurrent of urgency.
Night fell softly all around her. Up ahead, she heard the steady sound of falling water.
Something rustled in the undergrowth nearby. Elisa peered at the bushes, her instincts stirring sluggishly.
She thought she saw a ripple of golden hide beyond the trees, but in the starlight it was hard to tell. Pushing forward, she emerged onto an open, rocky slope that was sliced on one side by the gorge of the waterfall. The churning water tumbled down to a rocky creek. A few sparse trees clung to life at the edge of the gorge, in strange contrast to the lushness surrounding the clearing. In the suddenly exposed sky, a few stars glimmered.
A presence was at the waterfall, but she could see no one. Reflexively her hand closed over the odd, bulky shape under her arm. Startled, Elisa look at it, wondering what the odd shape was, and recognized it as a gun. Her gun. Which, now that she thought about it, was out of bullets.
She wondered why on earth she had come there. The sense of urgency faded -- she wanted to return to the warm beach. Elisa turned --
And her feet stilled. Immobilized by shock and horror, she stared down the slope.
The beach should not have been there -- it was physically impossible, it ws behind her, towards the north-east. Yet there it was, running parallel to the waterfall, its sands white and pristine in the starlight.
Shapes lay on the sad, the skulls and bleached white bones of what had once been human. The skeletal structures were still intact. And among them were two not-human, a smaller figure next to a much larger, whose massive ribs gleamed hollowly in the starlight. Surround the two figures was the tattered remains of some delicate, external bone network.
A shuddering gasp escaped her. Head reeling, Elisa turned. In her haste, her boot slipped on the loose stones of the slope, and she stumbled. A sharp pain went through her arm, cut by an outcropping of rock.
Elisa sank to her knees, shaking. "It's not real, it's not real," she whispered, huddled over with the roar of the waterfall in her ears. A sense of awakening, of awareness, swept over her, as if some outer protective shell was cracking, falling away from her body, leaving her painfully exposed and aware.
"Elisa Maza," a deep, soft, terrible voice spoke from behind her.
Raising her head, she slowly went into a crouch, and stood.
The lion, Aslan, was a few yards away, just at the edge of the forest.
"You did not remember what I told you," Aslan said. His tone was more sorrowful than angry, and it hurt her.
"It was so easy...to forget...so warm here...happy." Elisa lowered her head, her hair falling forward around her face. Then she brushed the hair back and looked right into the lion's face. "I won't ask whether what I just saw was true, or perhaps a possible future." She spoke a touch acidly.
"Wise of you," the lion answered. "It has served its purpose. Now you must remember."
Elisa lowered her eyes to the cut on her arm. It was oozing blood, but the cut was not deep. It stung when she touched it. "Aslan, how many days have we ... Aslan?"
But the lion had gone, without a single cracking of a twig or a breath of sound.
For a moment, Elisa stood alone by the waterfall.
"Goliath!" She said. Elisa turned, ran down the slope, and plunged back into the dense foliage.
Pieces of stone skin were scattered on the night beach. No one had bothered to re-light the torches, but the starlight sufficed.
"Goliath, listen to me. We have to leave this island! If we don't, we'll stay here forever."
"Would that be so bad?" Angela interrupted. Her black pupils were too large and had a far-off expression. "It's just like Avalon...like home." She sighed. "I don't think we're ever going to find Manhattan, Elisa. But this place is so nice. Why not stay here instead?"
"No -- Angela -- we will find Manhattan. That is home." In desperation, she turned to Goliath. He was watching her with a small, fond, amused smile on his square face, but his eyes were not his own. He looked -- fatuous, Elisa realized. Gritting her teeth, she resisted the urge to grab him by his massive shoulders and shake him. "Goliath, please, try to remember. This island is casting a spell -- or maybe there's some natural drug in the scent of those flowers. We have to leave. We're needed elsewhere."
"Elisa," Goliath said calmly, blankly. He hadn't even taken notice of the cut on her arm. Not that she liked being fussed over, but it was most unlike him not to notice -- or to care. "This island is quite pleasant. Surely it would harm nothing if we stayed here just for a time?"
"And what of them?" Elisa countered, gesturing at the drowsing members of The Dawn Treader's crew, at the three children. "They are on a quest they will never complete if we don't help them -- protect them."
"A quest..." Goliath mumbled. He looked away from her to the water. "Always questing...but where are the answers?" He turned back to her and heaved a sigh that seemed to drain all his being. "I am so tired, Elisa."
"Yes, because of this place! Goliath, what about Lexington, and Brooklyn, and Broadway, and Hudson?"
"Lexington?" Goliath looked puzzled. "Hudson? Are those places?"
Gritting her teeth, Elisa let out a growl of sheer exasperation. Scowling, she stepped closer to Goliath and pointed a finger in his face. "Listen, you oversized, dim-witted, stubborn gargoyle, get it into that rock-hard head of yours. We can't stay here!" She realized that she had said something similar to him before -- she knew what the answer should be.
Nothing. No answering flame of temper, just mild bewilderment.
Nearby, Angela crouched on the beach and began lazily tracing patterns with one talon. Under her breath she hummed some old medieval tune.
The scent of the flowers in the balmy night was making Elisa quesy.
~You did not remember what I told you~ An echo said into her mind.
What had Aslan told her?
~The blow that hurts does not always harm.~
Gingerly, Elisa touched the cut on her arm.
~It served its purpose.~
It had not been the vision, but the result, that had awakened her. Her fright had caused her to stumble and cut her arm. The drawing of blood, the unexpected pain, had penetrated the drug-like haze in her mind.
Doubtfully, Elisa studied Goliath. Somehow, she had to ... Elisa winced.
"You know," she said slowly, moving towards a sleeping sailor, "Perhaps you're right." She knelt on the sand and reached for the dagger hanging at the sailor's belt. Her fingers trembled and she paused, clenching and unclenching her fist, then undid the strap of the scabbard and removed the dagger.
Keeping it behind her back, she rose and returned to Goliath. Gently, she took his large hand in her small one and turned it over, palm facing up.
"I'm sorry," she whispered. Then, quickly and carefully as possible, she pulled out the dagger and made a thin, shallow cut along Goliath's palm.
A narrow track of blood oozed out. Elisa dropped the dagger to the sand.
Goliath blinked and looked down at his palm. Then he pulled his back back and roared. Elisa stumbled back several paces.
The white glow in his eyes faded and his eyes focused sharply on her.
"Elisa -- what on earth?"
"Goliath?" She caught her breath. "You're all right? You don't want to...stay here?"
"Stay? We cannot remain here. We must continue our journey and return home." He sounded exceedingly cross.
With a spurt of relief, she jumped up and hugged him. "Thank goodness you're back," she whispered, her face buried in his thick hair.
She felt his arms tighten around her for a moment. "Did I go somewhere?" Then he set her down and frowned. "Elisa, please explain."
Two small drops of blood fell to the white sand. Elisa scurried over to the sleeping sailor and found a handkerchief in his pack. Tenderly, she wrapped the white cloth around Goliath's hand.
"How long have we been here?" Goliath demanded
Elisa suddenly became aware of how thirsty she was. "Two days. I think."
"Two days? But it feels as though we sighted land just moments ago ... where is Angela?" He asked sharply.
"Right there," Elisa said, pointing.
Angela sat with her knees drawn up to her chin, still tracing patterns in the sand.
"Angela?" Goliath knelt beside her. "Oh, hello, father. Isn't this place wonderful?"
Goliath looked up at Elisa. "She is not herself. What is wrong with her?"
"The same thing that was wrong with you -- with all of us. That's why I had to ..."
His eyes went to the bandage on his hand. "I see now ... the pain breaks the spell." Gently, Goliath reached out and brushed a strand of hair from Angela's forehead.
"You want me to ..." Elisa began.
"No. She is my daughter. Besides, I do not believe the actual drawing of blood is necessary." He pinched Angela's arm.
The young gargoyle sprang to her feet, eyes burning red. "Ow! Goliath, why did you do that?" The glow faded and Angela shook her head as if clearing it. "Elisa? Goliath? What happened?"
Elisa explained the spell the island had cast, and Aslan's warning to her. Turning to Goliath, Elisa made an apologetic grimace. "Sorry about your hand."
"Elisa, I'm surprised at you," Goliath said, deadpan. "After all that has happened, I should have thought you would have learned by now how to interpret the cryptic statements of mysterious supernatural beings."
Soon almost all of The Dawn Treader's Crew were awake and back to their proper senses.
Angela stepped towards the snoring Eustace, but Edmund stopped her. "Oh, let me. Please."
In a business-like way, with no mercy, Edmund knelt by his cousin and gave him a ferocious pinch on the arm.
Eustace let out a blood-curdling yell and sat up, indignantly rubbing his sore limb. "You beast," he said to Edmund. "I was having the loveliest dream, too. And none of YOU were in it."
"I suggest we leave this evil place as soon as possible," Caspian said.
Rations of food and water were distributed and consumed quickly as the crew began to prepare for departure.
Elisa noticed Reepicheep standing off by himself at the tideline, facing the eastern horizon. She placed the sacks she was lifting into a boat and went over to the mouse king.
He had buckled his sword back on. The black mouse let out a small sigh and answered without looking away from the horizon: "Lady."
"Are you...all right?"
The mouse nodded and put a paw to the pommel of his sword. "Yes -- none the worse for wear. But when I think of how close I came to ending my journey here, I am sick at heart." He turned to look up at her, his black eyes shining in the darkness. "Not for fear of death, thought that is a fear anyone might comprehend, but because I would have failed my mission, to seek the very edge of the world. The Utter East."
"But you didn't," Elisa pointed out softly. "The spell is lifted, and you and your crew mates can finish your quest." ~And we can complete ours,~ she added silently.
"I am the king of the Talking Mice in Narnia." Reepicheep shook his head. "My will should have been stronger."
Elisa had a sudden urge to pet the mouse -- and knew what a disastrous mistake that would be. "Your will is strong," she said. "Everyone makes mistakes. The real test is going on after you've made them."
The mouse looked at her with an admiring light in his eyes. Gallantly, he took her hand in his paw and kissed it -- just a tickling of whiskers. "You are wise and brave, Lady Elisa." He put his paw to his chest dramatically. "You give a mouse courage."
Bronx was overjoyed to see them. He barked hysterically, and actually knocked Elisa to the deck in sheer affection before Angela pulled him away.
Caspian held out his hand to Goliath, who took the young king's arm in a warrior's handshake.
"Be well, my friends," Caspian said. "You will always be welcome in Aslan's country."
The skiff floated alongside The Dawn Treader, waiting for them.
"I hope you find what it is you are looking for," Goliath said.
"And I you," said Caspian.
Edmund shook hands gruffly all around. "I suppose you're all too old to get to come back," he said wistfully, with a glance at Angela. "I wish there were gargoyles at home in London," he muttered.
Elisa chuckled. "What makes you so certain there aren't?"
Edmund's jaw dropped.
Suddenly Lucy, about to drop a proper curtsy, raced forward impulsively and threw her arms around Elisa, then Angela, Bronx, and Goliath. Goliath's size and dignity didn't seem to faze the girl in the least. Bronx whined and licked her hand.
"Good-bye," Lucy whispered, and bit her lip.
"Farewell, Queen Lucy." Goliath climbed down into the skiff, then reached up to help Elisa when Angela lowered her over.
The three Children of Stone and the Daughter of Eve crouched in the skiff, watching The Dawn Treader draw farther and farther away, into the early glimmerings of sunrise at the eastern horizon. Then the sun rose, touching the low-hanging clouds in pink and gold, and Daughter of Eve sat a lonely vigil with her statues.
Elisa slept most of the day, and she was awakened by Goliath's roar and the patter of stone chips hitting the bottom of the boat. She sat up, combing her hair with her fingers.
It was night, but the sky was barely visible. They were enclosed by billowing mist that seemed to roll in from nowhere. Sometimes a star's light penetrated it from above, then was lost again. The water lapped eerily at the sides of the skiff in the quiet.
At last burning spots of light appeared ahead of them, and strange shapes.
Elisa caught her breath and moved to the stern of the skiff. One shape, rising up behind its wall of fog, had a familiar outline, almost like ...
She sighed. The mist cleared, and the burning spots became pyres on the cliffs that framed a beach. The shape was not The Chrysler Building, but an odd pillar framed by the lush greenery that sprawled over the island behind it.
Sometimes she felt like a hamster on a wheel. She had struggled to release them all from the spell on the island in Narnia so they could complete their journey -- and return home. And yet here they were, back where they had started. Full circle.
Elisa leaned wearily against the skiff's figurehead, her fingers wrapping around the head's wooden features.
"Back in Avalon."