Chapter 13: DEEP MAGIC FROM THE DAWN OF TIME
“Yes! and have him rescued,” said the Witch scornfully.
“Then,” said the dwarf, “we had better do what we have to do at once.”
“I would like to have it done on the Stone Table itself,” said the Witch. “That is the proper place. That is where it has always been done before.”
“It will be a long time now before the Stone Table can again be put to its proper use,” said the dwarf.
“True,” said the Witch; and then, “Well, I will begin.”
At that moment with a rush and a snarl a Wolf rushed up to them.
“I have seen them. They are all at the Stone Table, with Him. They have killed my captain, Maugrim. I was hidden in the thickets and saw it all. One of the Sons of Adam killed him. Fly! Fly!”
“No,” said the Witch. “There need be no flying. Go quickly. Summon all our people to meet me here as speedily as they can. Call out the giants and the werewolves and the spirits of those trees who are on our side. Call the Ghouls, and the Boggles, the Ogres and the Minotaurs. Call the Cruels, the Hags, the Spectres, and the people of the Toadstools. We will fight. What? Have I not still my wand? Will not their ranks turn into stone even as they come on? Be off quickly, I have a little thing to finish here while you are away.”
The great brute bowed its head, turned, and galloped away.
“Now!” she said, “we have no table – let me see. We had better put it against the trunk of a tree.”
Edmund found himself being roughly forced to his feet. Then the dwarf set him with his back against a tree and bound him fast. He saw the Witch take off her outer mantle. Her arms were bare underneath it and terribly white. Because they were so very white he could see them, but he could not see much else, it was so dark in this valley under the dark trees.
“Prepare the victim,”, said the Witch. And the dwarf undid Edmund’s collar and folded back his shirt at the neck. Then he took Edmund’s hair and pulled his head back so that he had to raise his chin. After that Edmund heard a strange noise – whizz whizz – whizz. For a moment he couldn’t think what it was. Then he realized. It was the sound of a knife being sharpened.
At that very moment he heard loud shouts from every direction – a drumming of hoofs and a beating of wings – a scream from the Witch – confusion all round him. And then he found he was being untied. Strong arms were round him and he heard big, kind voices saying things like –
“Let him lie down – give him some wine – drink this – steady now – you’ll be all right in a minute.”
Then he heard the voices of people who were not talking to him but to one another. And they were saying things like “Who’s got the Witch?” “I thought you had her.” “I didn’t see her after I knocked the knife out of her hand – I was after the dwarf – do you mean to say she’s escaped?” “- A chap can’t mind everything at once – what’s that? Oh, sorry, it’s only an old stump!” But just at this point Edmund went off in a dead faint.
Presently the centaurs and unicorns and deer and birds (they were of course the rescue party which Aslan had sent in the last chapter) all set off to go back to the Stone Table, carrying Edmund with them. But if they could have seen what happened in that valley after they had gone, I think they might have been surprised.
It was perfectly still and presently the moon grew bright; if you had been there you would have seen the moonlight shining on an old tree-stump and on a fairsized boulder. But if you had gone on looking you would gradually have begun to think there was something odd about both the stump and the boulder. And next you would have thought that the stump did look really remarkably like a little fat man crouching on the ground. And if you had watched long enough you would have seen the stump walk across to the boulder and the boulder sit up and begin talking to the stump; for in reality the stump and the boulder were simply the Witch and the dwarf. For it was part of her magic that she could make things look like what they aren’t, and she had the presence of mind to do so at the very moment when the knife was knocked out of her hand. She had kept hold of her wand, so it had been kept safe, too.
When the other children woke up next morning (they had been sleeping on piles of cushions in the pavilion) the first thing they heard -from Mrs Beaver – was that their brother had been rescued and brought into camp late last night; and was at that moment with Aslan. As soon as they had breakfasted4 they all went out, and there they saw Aslan and Edmund walking together in the dewy grass, apart from the rest of the court. There is no need to tell you (and no one ever heard) what Aslan was saying, but it was a conversation which Edmund never forgot. As the others drew nearer Aslan turned to meet them, bringing Edmund with him.
“Here is your brother,” he said, “and – there is no need to talk to him about what is past.”
Edmund shook hands with each of the others and said to each of them in turn, “I’m sorry,” and everyone said, “That’s all right.” And then everyone wanted very hard to say something which would make it quite clear that they were all friends with him again -something ordinary and natural -and of course no one could think of anything in the world to say. But before they had time to feel really awkward one of the leopards approached Aslan and said,
“Sire, there is a messenger from the enemy who craves audience.”
“Let him approach,” said Aslan.
The leopard went away and soon returned leading the Witch’s dwarf.
“What is your message, Son of Earth?” asked Aslan.
“The Queen of Narnia and Empress of the Lone Islands desires a safe conduct to come and speak with you,” said the dwarf, “on a matter which is as much to your advantage as to hers.”
“Queen of Narnia, indeed!” said Mr Beaver. “Of all the cheek -”
“Peace, Beaver,” said Aslan. “All names will soon be restored to their proper owners. In the meantime we will not dispute about them. Tell your mistress, Son of Earth, that I grant her safe conduct on condition that she leaves her wand behind her at that great oak.”
This was agreed to and two leopards went back with the dwarf to see that the conditions were properly carried out. “But supposing she turns the two leopards into stone?” whispered Lucy to Peter. I think the same idea had occurred to the leopards themselves; at any rate, as they walked off their fur was all standing up on their backs and their tails were bristling – like a cat’s when it sees a strange dog.
“It’ll be all right,” whispered Peter in reply. “He wouldn’t send them if it weren’t.”
A few minutes later the Witch herself walked out on to the top of the hill and came straight across and stood before Aslan. The three children who had not seen her before felt shudders running down their backs at the sight of her face; and there were low growls among all the animals present. Though it was bright sunshine everyone felt suddenly cold. The only two people present who seemed to be quite at their ease were Aslan and the Witch herself. It was the oddest thing to see those two faces – the golden face and the dead-white face so close together. Not that the Witch looked Aslan exactly in his eyes; Mrs Beaver particularly noticed this.
“You have a traitor there, Aslan,” said the Witch. Of course everyone present knew that she meant Edmund. But Edmund had got past thinking about himself after all he’d been through and after the talk he’d had that morning. He just went on looking at Aslan. It didn’t seem to matter what the Witch said.
“Well,” said Aslan. “His offence was not against you.”
“Have you forgotten the Deep Magic?” asked the Witch.
“Let us say I have forgotten it,” answered Aslan gravely. “Tell us of this Deep Magic.”
“Tell you?” said the Witch, her voice growing suddenly shriller. “Tell you what is written on that very Table of Stone which stands beside us? Tell you what is written in letters deep as a spear is long on the firestones on the Secret Hill? Tell you what is engraved on the sceptre of the Emperor-beyond-the-Sea? You at least know the Magic which the Emperor put into Narnia at the very beginning. You know that every traitor belongs to me as my lawful prey and that for every treachery I have a right to a kill.”
“Oh,” said Mr Beaver. “So that’s how you came to imagine yourself a queen – because you were the Emperor’s hangman. I see.”
“Peace, Beaver,” said Aslan, with a very low growl. “And so,” continued the Witch, “that human creature is mine. His life is forfeit to me. His blood is my property.”
“Come and take it then,” said the Bull with the man’s head in a great bellowing voice.
“Fool,” said the Witch with a savage smile that was almost a snarl, “do you really think your master can rob me of my rights by mere force? He knows the Deep Magic better than that. He knows that unless I have blood as the Law says all Narnia will be overturned and perish in fire and water.”
“It is very true,” said Aslan, “I do not deny it.”
“Oh, Aslan!” whispered Susan in the Lion’s ear, “can’t we – I mean, you won’t, will you? Can’t we do something about the Deep Magic? Isn’t there something you can work against it?”
“Work against the Emperor’s Magic?” said Aslan, turning to her with something like a frown on his face. And nobody ever made that suggestion to him again.
Edmund was on the other side of Aslan, looking all the time at Aslan’s face. He felt a choking feeling and wondered if he ought to say something; but a moment later he felt that he was not expected to do anything except to wait, and do what he was told.
“Fall back, all of you,” said Aslan, “and I will talk to the Witch alone.”
They all obeyed. It was a terrible time this – waiting and wondering while the Lion and the Witch talked earnestly together in low voices. Lucy said, “Oh, Edmund!” and began to cry. Peter stood with his back to the others looking out at the distant sea. The Beavers stood holding each other’s paws with their heads bowed. The centaurs stamped uneasily with their hoofs. But everyone became perfectly still in the end, so that you noticed even small sounds like a bumble-bee flying past, or the birds in the forest down below them, or the wind rustling the leaves. And still the talk between Aslan and the White Witch went on.
At last they heard Aslan’s voice, “You can all come back,” he said. “I have settled the matter. She has renounced the claim on your brother’s blood.” And all over the hill there was a noise as if everyone had been holding their breath and had now begun breathing again, and then a murmur of talk.
The Witch was just turning away with a look of fierce joy on her face when she stopped and said,
“But how do I know this promise will be kept?”
“Haa-a-arrh!” roared Aslan, half rising from his throne; and his great mouth opened wider and wider and the roar grew louder and louder, and the Witch, after staring for a moment with her lips wide apart, picked up her skirts and fairly ran for her life.