Once, in a world outside the stable door and forever out of reach, Lucy had read a story in a magician’s book that she could neither remember nor forget. As she walked up a green hill, through golden gates into a garden filled with trees, she was reminded of that story - or perhaps, the story had all along been reminding her of this place - and she did not think she could stand to leave Narnia once again. For, if it was heart wrenching to depart the first, second, and third time, from a Narnia that now seemed but a dim reflection, she did not know if her heart could survive a final parting. She walked under leaves showed not only green but also blue and silver when the wind stirred them and thought it almost too cruel that Aslan would bring her back again.
In the crowd that greeted her, her family, and her friends, her eyes met Caspian’s, and it felt like seeing him aged three years on the Dawn Treader, when he had pulled her from the water and she had gasped out his name. The ground lurched beneath her feet like a ship, and her ears were filled with a roar like the sea, and though lifetimes and the ending of the world had happened in the interim, she knew him still.
He had grown somehow older and younger than she remembered, for in his countenance she saw both the wisdom and strength which comes from time and the lightness and freedom from youth. To Lucy, he shone radiant like the sun, and it was as though his presence colored her view of all else around him. Beside him was the Star’s daughter, more beautiful and queenly than Lucy recalled, who had a light within her no less brilliant than Caspian’s. In her vision, the crowd around them seemed dim and insubstantial in comparison, and Lucy too felt like part of the crowd, as if she was intruding on something she had no part in.
She turned away from them, for there was no shortage of dear friends old and new to greet, and wonders of the new land to explore. Over a course of time that seemed both fleeting and enduring, she walked to the center of the garden, itself seemingly a world of its own, to bow before the thrones of King Frank and Queen Helen. She surveyed this new land with Tumnus, her oldest friend, amazed at meeting people and creatures from history and legend, and kings and queens from before and after her reign. The greatest marring of her enjoyment came when those she met asked after her sister, for they wished to meet her as well. Lucy could give them no answer, for she too wished for that. Separation, Lucy thought, was the most difficult trial, and one she hoped would not be given to her or those around her, and Lucy knew who she next wanted to seek out.
“Lucy,” she heard a voice call out from behind her, and even had that voice not been inscribed into her ears, she would have known its owner, for this land seemed to provide one’s heart’s desire. Caspian stepped towards her, clasping her in an embrace. His wife embraced her warmly in turn, and love like light flowed out of them.
The three of them talked for ages, and while they talked, they wandered the land, their feet guided by some call whose source they did not know.
“I waited for Caspian and Rilian with trepidation,” said the Star’s daughter. “How would they react to someone who had left them so prematurely? I had died young, they had died old, and yet here is a place for second chances, where we could grow old and young again together.”
“What do you mean?” asked Lucy.
“Stars do not die,” she said. “I think in exchange for their long dance in that world, they were given a foretaste of what was to come.”
“Like your father,” said Lucy, in understanding, thinking of Ramandu and his brethren’s long rests in the Eastern Isles and the fire-berries of the sun.
As they walked, it seemed as though Lucy could see more of herself, her weaknesses and her strengths, and the illusions she had hidden even from herself. “I was jealous of you, before,” confessed Lucy. “You stayed in Narnia after I left, and Caspian and all the men on the ship looked to you as if to a princess from one of our fairy tales. It was petty of me, and in that moment, I knew what those evil queens must have felt to meet the women that would supplant them.”
The Star’s daughter laughed. “Would you believe I was jealous of you as well? I had waited many long lives of man with my father on that island and never desired any more. When Caspian first spoke to me, however, I could feel time working within me, and knew I would not follow my father back to the skies. Yet, you had stepped out of legends from before even I was conceived and saved Caspian’s throne and country. You never left my husband’s heart, and I wondered if I was destined to be a poor substitute.”
“And now?” asked Caspian, with uncharacteristic intrusiveness.
She looked at Caspian and then at Lucy. “Where can there be jealousy where there is love?”
Lucy saw color rise to Caspian’s cheeks, as if he had been caught as something he thought he had kept hidden for an eternity. “Pray tell what you are thinking.”
Caspian turned to Lucy and said, “When I thought of you, I wished you had stayed.” He turned to the Star’s daughter and continued, “When I was with you, I was glad she had not. When you both were gone and I was left alone, I thought it was only what I deserved, and regretted for both your sakes that I had not been a better man.”
Lucy felt free of a burden she had carried for years, and when she saw Caspian’s downcast face, she wished to unburden him as well. She took the Star’s daughter’s hand in her own. “What was it you said: ‘this is a land of second chances’?” With her other hand, Lucy took one of Caspian’s, and then she held her hands together so that the three of them faced each other, closer than they had ever stood before and said, “Would you take this second chance with me?”
Caspian replied, “I was once told that we cannot want wrong things any more, now that we have died, and I cannot think of anything I would want more.”
“Nor I,” echoed the Star’s daughter.
The three of them stood in companionable silence, looking over the small clusters of people along the hills and the valleys of this land. The clusters of people seemed to grow in number and size as they continued to walk, and soon, the three of them found themselves walking along a ridge, towards a great mountain. There, at the end of all things, the one she had been waiting for appeared, and Aslan told her the most wondrous news, that she would never have to leave Narnia again.
Later, Lucy speculated. “I wonder if the others have little hurts that are buried deep beneath, waiting to be healed.”
“You are ever the healer,” said Caspian.
Instinctively, Lucy’s hand went to her chest. “Oh, I wish I had my cordial! Whatever became of it?”
“I would guess it is still at Cair Paravel,” answered Caspian.
“Do you think that such a thing would still be here? What need could there be, now in Narnia?”
“What use is there for swords or mail?” said Caspian, gesturing at his own set, and then at those of the men around them. Lucy followed his gesture to Peter, whose sword Rhindon hung buckled at his side.
“This is a land of healing,” added the Star’s daughter. “I can think of nothing more appropriate.”
“Shall we retrieve it?” asked Caspian.
Cair Paravel was not how Lucy remembered it, for it was neither the shining castle on a bluff on the seashore nor the grassy island ruin from the beginning of Caspian’s reign. While it was still beautiful, it was sturdier and more defensively built, more stone than glass and of sweat and muscle, not prophesy and magic. Caspian and his wife proudly guided her through its halls, and she could tell how their own visions had shaped the castle as they rebuilt it. She wondered if, further up and further in, she might have a chance to show them the castle of her memories.
The cordial was stored in the treasure room, alongside her dagger and her sister’s gifts. The cordial she hung around her neck, the dagger she buckled to her belt, and the rest she left for her sister to claim when she arrived. For, though the way may be long, her sister was strong, and gentle, and loving, and Lucy knew she would be able to find a door one day.
Lucy looked at her cordial, almost half-full and barely reduced from when she last remembered it on the Dawn Treader.
Caspian noticed her unspoken question, “After my wife was bitten by the serpent, she was brought back to the castle cold and still. Though my son told me that she had perished even before they carried her back, I had hoped they were mistaken. When the cordial dripped from her lips like blood, I knew that they were not.”
The Star’s daughter embraced Caspian, resting her head on his shoulder. “I never knew.”
“I can think of no more worthy cause. I do wish I had not used it so sparingly,” Lucy said. “I wonder how many lives might have been spared had I worn it commonly to the wars.”
“I was once told that we can never know what would have been, but we can easily know what will happen,” replied the Star’s daughter.
Lucy shared her cordial freely to those who sought healing. With Caspian and the Star’s daughter, she travelled throughout Narnia and the surrounding. When at last Lucy’s cordial ran empty, she was in Tashbaan, assisting a fellow traveller new to the country. The cordial gave the traveller endurance to wait for a time to be reunited with her family, and when Lucy thought about her contentment with Caspian and the Star’s daughter, and how it strengthened her as she waited for her own family to be reunited, it seemed a fitting end. Yet, when the Star’s daughter told her and Caspian of an idea to refill her cordial, Lucy thought there might be one more person she wanted to offer the cordial to.
They kicked off their shoes and ran east towards the sun, so fleet that they skimmed over the surface of the waves of the Eastern Sea. When they rejoined the path the Dawn Treader had taken, their conversations were filled with “do you remembers” and “did I ever tell you whens” the memories even more precious given the lifetimes since.
On the Island of the Dufflepuds, they were met with cheers and feasting. The island population had grown, with grandchildren and great grandchildren. The Dufflepuds had preferred to stay close to home rather than explore, so there was a series of floating houses bobbing around the island, which happily housed those who did not stay on the island. The houses were festooned with streamers and flags, and the Dufflepuds who rowed to and fro were clad in colorful tunics. Overall, the effect was that of a perpetual holiday fair.
Coriakin’s house itself was little changed, a stately estate in the midst of the riotous cheer. In a sitting room was hung a map, the mate of the one Coriakin had given them on their first visit. There were hazy, unfilled-in areas in the north and south, which caught their eyes.
“When we are done with our errand, let us finish filling out that map,” proposed Caspian.
Coriakin asked, “What is your errand now?”
“We are voyaging to the mountains of the sun.”
“That is a worthy adventure. When I was still shining in the sky, I often longed to reach the sun, and follow it beyond the edge of the world and then journey to the mountains yet beyond. That was not for me to do, then,” said Coriakin.
“Would you like to come with us?” asked the Star’s daughter.
“No, I no longer need to find Aslan’s country any more. I am content here for now, with the Dufflepuds and the sea.”
Lucy found it difficult to understand that one would not want to explore the wide world, for almost all she had seen and done in that land had been on one journey or another.
Coriakin seemed to sense her confusion, and asked her, “Do you wish to see my book again?”
Although she had thought about that book countless times since she last leafed through it, Lucy surprised herself by answering, “No, I do not need to any more.” Long ago, she was promised that she would be told that story in time, and at last, she realized that promise was true.
They left the Island of the Dufflepuds and skirted past the other islands in their haste, all feeling their excitement grow the farther east they ran. Soon, they spied the shores of Ramandu’s island. The three of them had a lovely meal at Aslan’s Table, and through the night, the Star’s daughter told of what little lore about the sun she remembered from her father.
As the sky began to lighten, the air filled with voices, beautiful and cold, and even richer than before. Lucy in her heart knew the words, and she, Caspian, and the Star’s daughter joined in the song. Thousands of white birds landed around them, and in the song she could hear a question, and Lucy sang back an answer, and when the birds had eaten at Aslan’s Table, the three of them found themselves carried upwards on the wings of those birds, heading towards the sun.
They landed on bright mountains, filled with the smell of the fireflowers and the glory of the country around them. Lucy pressed the juices from the fireflowers into her crystal flask, and the three of them danced on the mountain like children, licking the juices from their fingers and throwing the fire-berries in each other’s mouths. Lucy gathered the berries into her handkerchief, for they were as hard and bright as little coals and would not easily turn to mush, and when they returned to the Narnian country, she shared them around and told the others of the wonders waiting to be explored.
Like the stars, Lucy grew old and young again, together with Caspian and the Star’s daughter. She brought them to the ridge off the great mountain where she had met Aslan and continued along that ridge to take them to England, where they met her parents. They continued from there to visit other countries and even the other worlds jutting off of the mountains of Aslan, returning often to Narnia to bring their loved ones to lands that they had never heard of before and lands long familiar. When Susan finally returned to Narnia an old woman with a lifetime of memories, Lucy had her own lifetime of memories to share. Lucy offered her the cordial and a kiss, and in time, Susan found a joy as complete as Lucy’s. With Caspian and the Star’s daughter and her family and friends, Lucy truly lived happily ever after, in the life everlasting.