Possible Spoilers/Warnings: Nope
Summary: Sailors say the sea can drive you mad.
Returning westward, Caspian felt the tug of the waves against the prow, pushing him back toward the edge of the world. The sun set in front of them now, smaller each night, and Caspian smelled the salt returning, felt his body become accustomed to wanting sailors’ rations again.
Liliandil stood always at the stern of the ship, her nose wrinkled from the smell of the galley slops, and watched the eastern edge of the world grow smaller and smaller until the horizon swallowed up the lilies, the great wave, and finally even Ramandu’s island. “Have you changed your mind?” Caspian asked nightly. He half hoped she would give him an excuse to return and follow Reepicheep past the end of the world and half dreaded losing her as he had lost so many.
“No,” she always answered, and once added, “I have been too long from the world of men. We cannot shut ourselves away, Caspian. But I will miss it. My father will not ascend to the skies again before I am dead.”
“Come have some wine,” he said. “You worry Gael.”
She worried the sailors as well, although in a different way. They believed she was sea-touched and connected her to island legends about the sea-nymphs, stories of women who lived equally freely on land or under the sea, who seduced men from their wives and could save or sink a ship with a thought. They respected her; they honored her; but Caspian saw too that they feared her, and this worried him. It would be a long voyage home.
“Can I get you anything, ma’am?” Gael asked after she helped the Lady into bed and took her empty glass and fluffed the quilt over her again. The deck below her feet pitched, but Gael had almost become accustomed to it now.
“No, thank you, Gael,” she answered, and after a few moments she was asleep and Gael could run to the galley and get breakfast before falling into bed herself. Her nights were long now, waiting with the Lady, listening to her name the stars above her as family, friends, lovers, watching her welcome the dawn with a song. It set her apart on the ship and set Gael apart with her; but then, Gael had always been an oddity on board: a child where there should be no children, a girl where women were so rarely welcomed, a landlubber among men who love the sea.
Still, they had adopted her as something of a pet: the little sister or daughter every man had left behind. Gael learned to shoot Queen Lucy’s bow properly and to run up the rigging like a true sailor; she learned to drink and play cards for chores and swear (although she was careful not to do any of it around the king, the ship’s officers, or the Lady). Because of their affection for her, or perhaps in spite of it, they talked about the Lady in front of her, in whispers. Gael heard talk of sea-nymphs will drown a man and never was a country ruled well that was ruled by a sprite and mark my words, they’ll be no turning back. She heard, she’s got the king drowning in her already and we never really heard tell of that mist, did we. She heard, never trust a woman who looks too human and how do we know she didn’t just start it all.
Gael hated to be a rat and she hated to hurt the Lady, but she brought the sailors’ words back to her anyway, and whispered them at the stern of the ship when they were the only two awake other than the man on watch.
“I know you didn’t take my mum,” Gael said finally, when she had finished. “And I know you aren’t here to drown anyone. But is it true?”
The Lady laughed, and then sighed, and put her arm around Gael’s shoulders. “I’m no sea girl,” she said. “But I fell into the sea. I crashed. I—do you know what a star is, sweetheart?”
Gael shrugged. The Lady was a star, and she was a woman who could shine like the moon and fly through the air. On the other hand, her gran had always said stars were the pricks in the sky where Aslan’s country shone through. And Queen Lucy’s cousin Eustace had said stars were giant balls of flaming gas. “You are, ma’am.”
“Yes,” the Lady said. “But do you know what I am made of? I am not flesh and bone quite like you, although if I were cut, I think I would bleed. But I am made of starlight. When I was in the sky, I shone very brightly; so when I fell to the ground it was like I was burning. I burned the land when I blazed past it. I—I did not realize, you see. I saw the islands from where I danced in the sky but I didn’t quite…quite see how fragile they are. But I knew enough to fall into the sea, and that extinguished some of my light. It did not make me a sea girl, but it made me a bit like one, do you see?”
“No,” Gael admitted. All the talk of starlight and burning and falling was hard to picture; she could not see the Lady on fire, plummeting into the waves, singeing the tops of trees as she fell. “Can you drown a man?”
“If I held his head under water, I suppose,” the Lady said. “But I’m not made of water, like the sea people. I’m made of a kind of fire, you see. I could burn a man.”
Gael considered this. “Does the king know?”
“I don’t think so,” the Lady said. “Caspian thinks of me like a man thinks of a woman. It’s difficult for him to see that I am not quite a woman.”
“Are you going to marry him then?” Gael asked next. “That’s what the men all say. That he’s asked you and you’ve as good as said yes and then you’ll rule Narnia and drown him. Or burn him, I guess. Because they say you can’t ever really love him like he loves you.” Then, realizing what she’d said, Gael clapped a hand over her mouth and added quickly, “But of course it’s only sailors’ talk, ma’am.”
“Walk with me,” the Lady said, taking Gael’s arm and steering her toward the starboard side. “You see those three stars there? Just ahead of us there?”
Gael cocked her head and looked carefully. “All in a line?”
“There used to be a fourth,” she said. “Stars fall from the heavens for all sorts of reasons, Gael. My father was tired. The magician was accepting a punishment. But sometimes stars go bad, like people do. They lose their light and they suck everything around them in. The star who used to be there was one of the ones who went bad, and when she fell into the sea she kept sucking people in, you see? My father would have taken her to task, but he was too tired and too heartsick. So I came to stop her.”
“The mist,” Gael said. “The mist used to be a star.”
“So she did,” the Lady said. “We’ve hurt her quite a bit, Gael, but she isn’t dead, and I think if she strikes again she’ll strike westward. She’ll try to hurt Narnia, because Narnians and Narnian swords hurt her; and she’ll try to stay away from the sea, because she thinks I will be there.”
“But if you marry the king…”
“Yes,” the Lady said. “If I marry Caspian. So no, Gael, I don’t love him the way he will love me. But for his sake I will pretend, and for his country’s sake I will marry him.”
“And then fight the mist,” Gael finished. The Lady nodded. “Then I won’t tell him anything,” Gael decided. “But I’m going to stay with you. I’m going to learn how to be a lady-in-waiting and I’ll learn how to fight stars. And then you won’t have to do it alone. You’ll have me.”
“I would like that,” the Lady said quietly, putting her arm back around Gael’s shoulder. Gael settled in against her side, feeling the warmth of starlight under the Lady’s dress, and tilted her head back to look up at the sky.
“There is my mother,” the Lady said, very quietly. “And that is where my sister used to dance.”
“Land ho!” came the call from the crow’s nest, and Caspian hurried to the prow with a telescope in his hands. Narnia was only just visible on the horizon, a dim jagged gray line.
“Narnia,” he whispered, and was unsurprised to find Liliandil at his side. “Home, my love,” he said. “Your home.”
“I have been watching for it for a long time,” Liliandil said.
He could hear the smile in her voice, and rejoiced. He had worried she would find it too large, too populated, too foreign. “It’s like a fairy tale,” he said after a moment. “From the other world, where the kings and queens of old came from. The king vanquishes the monster and marries the beautiful princess, and they live happily ever after.”
“So I hope it shall be,” she said, and the crew was tactful enough to pretend not to see when, for the first time, Caspian kissed her properly.
What I want: Take your pick: Golden Age fic where Peter and Susan host visitors from another country at Cair Paravel and intrigue/wacky hijinks ensue (whichever, up to you)! Edmund reading ancient Narnian history! A sea voyage with all kinds of adventures (either Pevensies or Caspian, whichever you like)! And I'm always happy with some Peter/Caspian.
"Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell"
"On with the dance! let joy be unconfined;
No sleep till morn, when Youth and Pleasure meet
To chase the glowing hours with flying feet."
"God gave us memories that we might have roses in December."
What I definitely don't want in my fic: No rape, non-con, bdsm, extreme violence; Caspian/Lucy, Caspian/Edmund, any character-bashing. Other than that, I'm good!