Long ago before the Thaw, when I was just a cub and the Queen ruled at Cair Paravel, and all was right with the world, I met Her Majesty. Narnia was so beautiful then. The snow was crisp and deep and lay in soft drifts so that you could walk and tumble for miles and never hurt your paws. There was no hot sun or scratchy undergrowth or biting flies, just the peaceful hush of winter and the small, quiet sounds of cold rivers, crunching footsteps, and white birds drifting high on gentle wings.
My mother and brother and I lived in a cosy den just North of Beruna on the Great River. We would wade out through the icy banks and into the deep water to catch leaping salmon as they navigated their way upstream to spawn in the shallow gravel near the ford. Or, we would watch in awe as our huge mother ran swiftly and lightly to catch fat hares. Sometimes she would dig down through snow and earth right into a burrow of furred creatures or fluffy birds for us to eat. We were always hungry and we were always fed and that was our life; eat, learn, tumble, eat, sleep, eat … just like you.
We did not mix with the talking beasts. Our Queen didn’t favour them as the Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve do. She ruled for all of us and her magic was for all, as well, even the dumb and the ugly. We’ll never forget how valiantly She fought against the foreign take-over, right to the very end. When Her sleigh ground to a halt because of the Thaw, She stood on two feet and walked. She defeated the lion with her own hands. You must remember that, cubs. She never gave up on us. She was a true Narnian, one of the best the world has ever seen. And I met Her.
I’ll never forget that day.
My fur is yellowed now, but when I was young it was as dazzling white as a fresh snowfall. If I wanted to hide, all I had to do was to lie flat and close my eyes. Bruno and I were playing hide and seek one day when we heard distant bells, and the fast swoosh swoosh of a sleigh speeding over open ground. I was partly buried, to look like a snow-covered shrub, and partly lazy because we had just eaten a huge meal, and partly deaf because my ears were full of snow. So by the time I gave up on my hiding and stood up, the sleigh was nearly upon me. There was a shout and a swerve, a skid that threw up a quick wall of shredded ice, and then silence. I shook my ears and wiped my eyes. The Queen looked down from her cushioned seat. I trembled to see how fierce she was, with her silver crown sharp as daggers and her flashing eyes like the dazzle on snow. She gestured for me to come closer, and I obeyed. She could have turned me to stone but she didn’t. Instead she looked into my eyes. I don’t know what she said; we are not talking beasts; but I know what I felt. She saw right into me, as if she knew in a heartbeat everything I was and would ever be, and then she smiled a secret smile and turned away. The next second, with a shout from her dwarf, the sleigh sped off into the distance and left me standing there alone. I became warm from my stomach to my paws. I would have climbed into that sleigh with her and become her slave. I would have offered my life into the service of my Queen.
I never saw her again, but I know deep down that somewhere she lives on and that someday she will return. The melted ice will freeze again, you will see. The burning sky will fill again with soothing clouds. The parched, sore earth will be drenched again and blanketed in snow. And all the dumb beasts, the ugly beasts, those who are hunted and hated and hidden with shame – all will creep from the shadows and stand proud in the clean blue air. And on that day, mark my words cubs, the Queen will return, and the world will be healed.
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And Narnia turned on its head.