(While I was writing about Queen Swanwhite a month ago I wondered just what it would mean to leave a reflection of yourself in whatever pool of water you looked into, a reflection that remained for a year after you were gone. The Queen might not care, or those who carried her legend. But for the common folk of Narnia it was a different story.)
A Year and a Day
It was said that when Queen Swanwhite looked into any forest pool the reflection of her face shone out of the water like a star by night for a year and a day afterwards.
— from Tales of Elder Narnia, by Purseplum the Marshwiggle
After a third round of leisurely lovemaking Drutessa rose from the bower of moss and leaves that cushioned her and her partner from the hard forest floor.
“I’m off to wash up a bit,” she said with a quick kiss on Phoedus’s left horn.
The faun grinned at her cheekily. “Don’t be long, love.”
Drutessa wrapped her filmy garment around her and, soft-footed but sure, padded through the trees to little pool they had nested by.
Phoedus had been the picture of gallantry earlier, but now he was free to grin from pointed ear to pointed ear. Drutessa was quite a prize. It had taken weeks of honeyed persuasion, hard wooing, and countless gifts before she’d been softened up enough to lay with him. Such was the life of a faun, and the females of their species, the phaunae. Oh, the phaunae looked nothing like him, of course, with his goat legs and hooves. Phaunae were like the nymphs, comely, slim and graceful. But like the fauns they had pointed ears, and on their foreheads small rudimentary horns. And on their shapely backsides, the stub of a small tail.
A loud scream split the air. Phoedus leapt up, erotic daydreams forgotten, and rushed off to find Drutessa.
She was staring at the pond, shaking, her hand pointing at the water. “It’s that bloody queen again!”
Phoedus gazed over her shoulder. (Being a faun, he was shorter but sturdier than she.) In the water, glimmering with a milky opalescent light, was the limpid face of Queen Swanwhite, gazing up at them like the moon gazes down on a pool. One might have thought she was actually there, under the water, except the unearthly beautiful face had no motion, no life. Magic had imprinted it there, the same magic that cast it in the other forest pools, to glimmer there for months.
“That means she was here, when we were… we were…” Drutessa choked on the rest of her words.
Phoedus spied a few strands of long, white hair glimmering in a nearby holly bush. He picked them off. It was said the Queen often walked these forests, combing her long pale hair, singing to herself; and of course stopping to admire her likeness.
He moved closer to console his love. “Let’s find another spot to bathe.”
“There is no other spot,” Drutessa wailed. “That low area over there? That has last Tuesday’s face. And the one by the log is from last spring, you can tell by the length of her hair. All of them staring at us.”
“Then I’ll piss in her mouth,” Phoedus decided, parting the curly fur between his legs. Sometimes his earthy nature got the better of him. “Hey, Queenie, get a load of this.”
Drutessa wailed again at the apostasy and pushed him away from the shore. As she did a second scream came from across the water: a human woman from the nearby hamlet of Mousenibble, who’d been startled by last Tuesday’s face. “Is there no place in Narnia free of that wretched woman?” the human cried.
“But mama, she’s beautiful,” the human’s child said.
“So are rainbows. But they don’t stick around forever.” The human woman picked up her laundry basket, overturned in her surprise, and stuffed the fallen clothing back in. “All these effigies are too much. How vain can one girl be?”
A Talking Stag emerged from the bushes, who, like them, had come to use the pond but been off put by the reflections. “I suppose I’ll have to quench my thirst elsewhere,” he said after a moment’s hesitation. “The ravine pool, perhaps.”
“Don’t bother,” Drutessa said. “She’s been there too.” She sounded so sour that Phoedus wondered if she’d lost interest in him. The females of his species were capricious with their loving. They might be pursued for weeks, only to give in on a whim.
“There’s a stream over yonder,” Phoedus said. “I’ve heard running water can’t preserve her likeness.”
“The stream is cold.”
“As are you, my dear,” Phoedus muttered.
“As if I can be in the mood with the Queen of Narnia staring at me!”
The Stag spread his front legs and bent his neck as if to take a sip from the pool, but thought better of it and rose again. He eyed Swanwhite’s reflection from the side of his face. “My apologies, your Highness,” he said.
“She ain’t real!” the laundrywoman bellowed.
“I know that,” the Stag said calmly. “But it doesn’t feel right not to.”
Phoedus scratched at his goatee. It was a rare pool in the forest that didn’t have at least one reflection of the Queen. Privately he wondered if Drutessa took issue with the Queen’s great beauty, comparing it, unfairly, to her own; but even he had to admit the blank, lifelike faces were creepy, especially when come upon unawares. The fact they remained when disturbed was even creepier, imparting to them an independent, sentient existence that they likely didn’t have.
“You may have to walk a long way, my friend,” he said to the Stag. “As will we.” He gave Drutessa a cuddle, hoping she would respond. She didn’t, but she didn’t snap at him again, either. “I apologize for my harsh words, love,” he said. “Let’s be off.”
“I will join you,” said the Stag. “Downstream, of course,” he added discretely.
The laundrywoman said nothing, only snatched her son’s hand away from the water as he was about to poke the Queen’s eyeball with a stick, and hurried off with her laundry basket.
The forest went quiet. But in the distance, if one strained to hear, a single female voice continued to sing, brushing her hair by some woodland pool.