[Originally posted at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings.]
[In response to a creepy story in which Susan was the only one left after losing first Lucy, Edmund, and Peter to the wardrobe and then the professor and the housekeeper on a rescue mission that ... the professor said if he didn't make it back in a certain number of days to have the wardrobe torn apart and burned to ash That time has come and gone, but Susan is caught between the desire to avoid anyone else getting hurt and the desire to at least pretend there's still hope for those she has lost and that has led to inaction.]
"You've lost people," the girl said. "I get that. I've lost my whole family."
"I'm sorry," Susan said to her.
"It happens," the girl said. Susan could tell that her attempt to downplay it was fake. A practiced lie. A lie that she told herself over and over again in hopes she'd someday believe it. Susan had seen self-deception before.
Which meant that despite the sudden attempt to act like she wasn't still hurting, Susan knew that the girl's original statement was the true one: the girl did get how Susan felt.
Susan watched the girl in silence. Waiting for the point to come.
"Before they died they taught me things," the girl said. "They taught me that some people have made it back." The girl set down the rucksack, which she'd seemed so intent on protecting every time Susan noted her posture , opened it, and pulled from it a sword.
The scabbard seemed ordinary enough --though Susan knew little about swords-- but when the girl drew the sword and held it before Susan, Susan was sure she was looking at something from another world. It was a strange black thing that was only vaguely sword shaped, tendrils of something that glowed blue seemed to writhe beneath the glassy surface, part of it was slick with some form of goo that was so dark Susan's eyes couldn't even focus on it, instead her eyes told her that there was nothing there but void.
"When faced with what your family has encountered it's only natural to believe there's no possibility of victory," the girl said. "Not all such fights are hopeless, if you have the right tools."
The girl sheathed the sword. "They don't eat their victims until the 40th day," the girl said. "So, there's still a week's worth of hope left for the first ones you've lost."
The word "eat" had shocked Susan a bit, but not much. She had grown increasingly aware of the horror of the situation. She'd ventured in as far as she could without losing contact with the way out and what she'd seen had driven all hope from her. She'd been alone with nothing but the horrors she imagined on the other side of that thing. There was not much left that could shock her more than a bit.
"I'm not letting anyone else be lost to that thing," Susan said.
"My life is mine to do with as I please," the girl said. "To risk or end as I please. If you're so convinced I'll fail like the others, then all I ask is that you give me the freedom to die where I wish to die, doing what I wish to be doing."
"Beyond the sword," Susan said, "what do you have that makes you think you can save yourself? Never mind anyone else."
* * *
"Only something glass-sharp can pierce the hide?" Susan asked.
"Yes, pretty much anything on the other side that's too large to hide has to be like that. You can test it if you like," the girl said. "Rumor has it you have some discarded pelts." She sighed. "If we had more time, we could have made them into armor for ourselves."
"And this goo," Susan pointed to a mason jar, it's contents glowing a sickly green, "is poison to it."
"To them," the girl said. "They live in packs, hunt in packs, kill in packs, eat in packs. They're very big on sticking with their families.
* * *
Susan had been given a bow for Christmas and always treasured it. She spent the rest of the day breaking pretty much everything in glass in the house, and making the broken shards into arrowheads. Once she'd fastened them to arrows --the girl was nice enough to make shafts for Susan; Susan didn't ask where the fletchings came from-- Susan dipped them in the green goo.
At one point she asked what it was. The girl simply said, "Blood of something that doesn't like being eaten."
* * *
The day was ending when they approached the wardrobe.
Susan had left instructions that it be burned, an appointment set up for a time when she was sure that, if she hadn't made it back, she'd be dead. The key already stashed in the place she'd told the workers she would leave it on the day of the appointment.
"What's your name?" Susan asked the girl as as she opened the wardrobe door.
"I thought you didn't want to know 'the name of someone so eager to die'," the girl said. Susan looked at her and saw she was smirking. "You know I didn't ask for help, just to be allowed passage."
"I'm not letting anyone go to certain death," Susan said. "With help, I think there's a very slim chance that you might survive."
"How slim?" the girl asked.
"Vanishingly slim," Susan said.
The girl smiled at that. "I am Ara bint Kidrash bin Rishti al-Tash"
"I am Susan, daughter of Helen and member of the family Pevensie," Susan said.