Kid-friendly, I supposeSummary:
A Just King slowly writes names on parchment one quiet night, and the Memory Garden is born.Author's Note:
I was trying to go for a detached sort of style for this piece. Oh, and response to Weekly Challenge #5
: Memory at justkingedmund
late, I know, but I only just saw this prompt and was instantly inspired. And I'm finally back! Woohoo!Disclaimer:
As usual, not mine.
It begins on a quiet night in a dim library, Peter watching as the guttering candle flickers even lower, his brother leaning forward, eyes bright in the gloom, forehead wrinkled over the parchment he is writing on. Sometimes the scratching of Edmund’s quill pauses as he consults the scrap of tattered, much-abused paper clutched in his left hand; but mostly he works steadily, transcribing name after name without a break, ink flowing in neat lines from the river of his memory.
He has divided the parchment into two, with a characteristically precise line running down its center. On the left are the names of the Beavers, the good giant, Mr. Tumnus, and countless other heroes of the Winter-War. On the right are the names of the victorious dead.
The wind whistles through an open window, causing the flame to dance. Peter stands up to shut it. “What is that?” he asks abruptly as he comes back to the table, nodding at the fragment in Edmund’s hand.
Edmund looks up, a cloudy look in his eyes. He shakes the haze away and says, “I asked around. I wanted the names of everyone who took part.”
He doesn’t go back to his writing, but gazes up at his brother patiently, waiting for him to ask the question that hangs tangibly in the air. Peter sits in glazed silence before finally complying.
Edmund turns back to his parchment. The fireglow smiles on his hair. “Because I want to remember,” he says simply.
Long after Edmund retires to his bed and the candles burn out, Peter sits in the darkness of the library, watching as the sable ink glistening on the yellowing expanse dries.
The pillars are graceful affairs of cream-color and strength, standing proudly by the statue like watchful, beautiful sentinels. A lion rests on a table between them, proud, majestic, with a touch of sorrow still, even sitting in all his marble splendor; the pale table he resides on is split in two.
“Inspired, Peter,” murmurs Susan, tracing a finger over the names that run across the length of the table, skimming dead names and memories.
Peter smiles. “I was,” he says, looking directly at his brother. Crimson steals across Edmund’s cheeks.
“I want to expand this into a park,” Peter continues calmly, with that sparing grace so peculiar to the High King, pretending not to notice the grateful look Edmund flashes him as the girls’ gazes are directed to their elder brother. “I don’t want this statue smack-dab in the middle of nowhere… and I think our people should be… should be happy and feel peaceful as they honor our heroes, if that makes any sense at all.”
“What will you call it?” says Lucy gravely, slipping a small hand into his.
He hesitates for a heartbeat, and then speaks.
“The Memory Garden,” he says.
Whispers of Aslan’s visit flit to and fro, like tantalizing, jewel-bright moths, until the Narnians are driven quite wild. Those who see Aslan, however, are usually not much inclined to speak about His errands, and it is no different in this instance.
One young rowan dryad, however, barely older than a sapling, finally sheds some light on the enigmatic affair. “I saw Him in the Memory Garden,” she says. “He stood before the memorial and wept. His tears looked like golden drops—they spread out beneath our feet and across the entire park, and then flashed and vanished.”
Winter does not visit the Memory Garden that year, nor the years that follow. It sits in quiet, green glory, a song of Spring in a white-flake symphony, and Narnia knows that Aslan is pleased.
A young Hare rests back on his hind legs and gazes up at the pale, still lion that towers above him.
He gently places the carrot stick his mother had given him on the pedestal, among the riot of colors that are flowers. Carrots are rare treats, but it is really all he has to give.
“Will you teach me?” says Lucy, in her birdsong-sweet voice.
They sit on a carved bench underneath a queenly beech, and the harper from Archenland gently guides her fingers; underneath their caresses, a magic blend of harmonies emerges. They spend the afternoon there, singing and laughing and trailing notes into the summer air.
But when the stars begin to flower demurely in the sky, Lucy makes her way to the statue. She stands in silence for a few moments, gazing up at the lion’s wild, careless strength and sad majesty.
She kneels, and inspiration lends a gleam of beauty as she plays the loveliest song she knows.
The Calormene spreads his notes out on the green grass, the fruit of all the past weeks’ labors. He is young, and bright, and excited, full of spring-fresh joy at the chance to study this culture. He will write a book on this strange land, and their strange history, and it will be read and admired, and his countrymen will see that perhaps Narnia isn’t simply some little country on the edge of the vast, ponderous bulk of the Calormene empire.
This Memory Garden, for instance. The marble lion is a work of art, indeed—and he had run a hand over the names, marveling at their peculiarity—Fleetfoot, and Urgle, and Brimthib, and Rodrick. What a wealth of information he can extract from these Talking Animals and Talking Trees and Talking Rivers! Someday, he will be read far and wide, and—
A rumble. Without a hint of warning, the heavens open wide, and rain falls. He can only watch in stupefied, agonized shock as his work is reduced to black smears and inked dreams.
A Badger comes out of his shelter after a few minutes, to see why the young Calormene is still sitting out in the curtains of rain. He glances from the man’s dark face to the sodden fragments of ink-stained parchment sprawled before him, and understands.
“Best not to try and write it down, young man,” he says in a quiet, gravelly voice. “We keep it all in here.” He lays a hand on his heart.
“A memorial,” says Edmund.
Corin turns sky-bright eyes upon him. “What a memorial?”
Edmund pulls the young prince closer upon his lap.
“A memorial,” he says, “is a way of remembering and honoring those who gave their lives for a dream.”
“Yes,” Edmund says softly. “A dream of flowers blooming and birds singing and children running through green fields, unafraid of laughter.”
They all sit on the grass and watch the candy-colored sky perform a sunset, and when the heavens have darkened, they build a bonfire upon the widest expanse of ground the park has to offer. The Narnians and their rulers dance with shadows that night, singing to the fireflies and the blazing constellations, and the anniversary of their victory paints the darkness with fire.
As the years following the Kings’ and Queens’ permanent departure fade away, so do the sharply-cut, clean new lines of the Memory Garden’s foundations. But it retains its old magnificence and only continues to grow in grace, because its beauty is of the sort that softens and dignifies with the years.
“A Queen once sat here,” says an old woman to her grandson, pointing to a carved bench, now worn with age. “She made some beautiful music.”
“Will you show me, Grandma?” says the little boy sweetly through his golden curls.
She guides her grandson’s fingers, and a magic blend of harmonies trails through the air.
The Telmarines cast the Memory Garden down. They take their cruel catapults and knock it to the ground, and even ask a few of the more dimwitted Giants to help tear the cream-colored pillars down. It is Caspian the Conqueror who takes a mace and swings it at the marble statue. The lion tumbles off the cracked table missing an ear.
As the sounds of the Telmarines’ destruction rent the air, the Narnians weep; stones crash down and paths are spiderwebbed with cracks and trees are hewn, as one of the last great memorials of the Golden Age’s glimmering splendor is reduced to ruins. The heavens let loose a great downpour of angry rain, like a deluge of glistening pearls, like tears.
But when the water and mist clears, and a pale, perfect, washed-blue canvas of sky softens into view, the ruins stand as they ever have—graceful, proud. The Memory Garden’s broken edges are conspicuous against the faint sky, a dark silhouette, a proud, shattered reminder of what once was, and what will still be. And the Narnians can’t find it in their hearts to mourn its loss—because even in ruins, the Garden retains a touch of majesty and loveliness.
The lion lies on the ground, and a crown of ivy and flowers climbs up to twine in its marble mane.