|Forever Young: A Golden Age Novella
Author: Blue-Winter-Angel PM
The Pevensies ruled over Narnia for fifteen glorious years. Take a glimpse into the age of peace, happiness and the strongest, purest love to ever grace the pages of the old history books. PeterxArabella.Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Fantasy - Peter Pevensie - Chapters: 4 - Words: 16,954 - Reviews: 18 - Favs: 11 - Follows: 17 - Updated: 08-09-12 - Published: 06-20-12 - id: 8239569
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
First of all, I'm sorry for the wait. Writing this took a lot longer than I expected. I ended up struggling a bit as I didn't have a set time-line or a decent number of specific scenes. I didn't even have an ending! After a while I just let the kids tell the story and stopped trying to force it and wouldn't you know it, as soon as I did the words started to flow ;)
This chapter takes place three years after chapter three, so Arabella is around 23 years old.
I have to give a quick thank you to Anna and Libby, who kept me sane while I all but pulled my hair out trying to get these characters to cooperate. Libby also kept me from being lazy by pretty much harassing me on twitter to get writing. Libby, this one's for you!
I always knew this chapter was going to be a monster, and I wasn't wrong. Enjoy!
Disclaimer: The Chronicles of Narnia belongs to C.S Lewis and Walt Disney. Arabella belongs to me.
The loud clangs of metal on metal rang throughout the training room like great claps of thunder. Edmund stood across from me, sweat beading on his forehead as he struggled to block the forward thrust of my sword. He may not have been able to see it, but he was improving.
"Come on, Ed," I encouraged, dodging his upward lunge and smacking him on the thigh with the flat of my sword. "Pay attention. Watch your stance; a sword fighters feet must always remain on the ground."
He grunted and lunged for me again, his steps shaky and unsure. He was tired.
"Focus, Edmund," I continued, shifting my weight as he came at me with messy swings of his sword. "You're getting reckless."
"And you're not playing fair," he growled.
I narrowed my eyes at him. It was hard to coach him properly when he lost his temper; more often than not his pride took more of a beating than his body. "Complaining will get you nowhere. Your enemies will not listen to your complaints when they best you in a fight. Concentrate. Find my weakness and use it against me."
He paused, watching as I readied my sword and eased myself into the correct stance. If he paid close enough attention he would be able to see that I was slightly weaker on my left side. One good hit and he'd win. "You're hesitating. If this wasn't practice my sword would be at your throat by now."
My taunt seemed to be the fuel he needed to keep going for he rushed me with a guttural cry. My arms ached as I blocked his strikes, following his momentum. He eventually began to force me backwards, taking advantage of my weaker left-side moves. His eyes met mine for the shortest of seconds before he gave a strong flourish of his sword. I watched as my weapon skittered across the floor and hit the far wall.
Edmund aimed his sword at the hollow of my throat, his eyes sparkling. "I win."
I laughed and stepped away from the tip of his sword. "Well done," I praised. "Keep fighting like that and you'll be a master of melee weapons in no time."
"You'll continue to teach me?" he asked as we crossed the room to where my sword lay on the ground.
I picked it up and smiled at him. "If that's what you'd like, then I'd be happy to."
He nodded and took my sword before walking to where the other weapons were stocked. I had been coaching Edmund on his sword skills for the last few weeks while Peter was away, helping a small village in the Lone Islands rebuild after a violent storm tore down most of their homes. I had offered to go with him but he encouraged me to stay at the castle with my siblings. It was hard being so far away from him, but our bond was strong enough that I could still feel the occasional flicker of emotion from him.
The sharp rap of knuckles on the door frame jolted me from my thoughts and I looked up to see Evari standing in the entrance to the spacious room. She had grown so much in the last few years. "I hope I'm not interrupting anything, Your Majesties?" Her voice was soft and lulling as she gave an elegant curtsy and offered us both a pleasant smile.
"Not at all," Edmund replied. "We were just packing up. What can we do for you?"
"I was hoping to call on Lady Arabella for a moment or two."
I blinked in surprise. She was here for me? "Of course. What is it?"
Her lips pulled down a little at the corners as she spoke. "We've received word from our scouts in the mountains that some of Jadis's stragglers have set up camp there. We don't know much but apparently there's been word of a rebel uprising."
Edmund's eyes widened. "How is that possible? There can hardly be enough of those creatures left to start something like that."
Evari shrugged. "It's hard to say. At this point it's just a rumour but we can't afford to take any chances."
I nodded. "I'll leave immediately."
"Whoa, wait a minute." Edmund quickly crossed the room and wrapped his fingers around my wrist. "Are you sure you should be going alone? Let me come with you."
I smiled and gently pried his fingers from my arm. "I can handle this just fine on my own. I'll be back before nightfall." I looked to Evari who watched us with calm eyes. "Ready my weapons, please."
"Of course, Your Majesty," she said and made her way back down the hall.
"Arabella, please," Edmund continued as soon as she was gone. "Something about this doesn't feel right. I shouldn't be letting you go off on your own." I raised my eyebrows and he quickly backtracked. "Not that you can't handle yourself perfectly well in a fight, but still. We don't know how many of them are up in those mountains. They could ambush you and we'd have no idea."
"If something happens I can always get the dryads to send word." I left the room with Edmund right at my heels. "You worry too much, little brother. I've been doing this all my life; I know the drill."
He huffed and quickened his pace. "Please. Peter will kill me if something happens to you."
That made me pause. This was one of the first times I'd been called to deal with something like this since before the war. I had different duties now, other people to consider. "Fine," I sighed. "I'll take a few guards with me just in case something goes wrong. Happy now?"
He frowned. "I could be happier, but I suppose that's as lenient as you're willing to be."
I nodded. "It's nothing I haven't done before. I'll be fine."
Smoke was the first scent I caught as I walked a careful path up the mountain. My escorts waited at the bottom of the steep incline; they would serve better down there just in case something happened and word had to be sent back to those who waited at the castle. I knew Edmund wouldn't be happy, but for the moment this was a stealth mission. The less people involved, the better.
I diverted from the main trail as the smoke grew thicker around me, using the trees for coverage just in case they had scouts of their own.
"You couldn't have been a bit more careful lighting that damn thing?"
I paused mid-step, my ears pricking at the sound of a rough, angry voice. I'd found them.
"Don't blame me. If you hadn't thrown those stupid herbs in there we wouldn't be dealing with all this smoke."
"Oh no. This is all on you. With our luck someone's going to find us and then we'll all be dead!"
"Enough. Your arguing is just as much of a beacon as the smoke."
I managed to creep forward a few more feet as the men continued to bicker amongst themselves and it wasn't long before I reached the tree line of a small clearing. There was enough plant life to keep me sufficiently hidden, but I still shifted back to my human form and ducked behind a thick tree trunk. If I was spotted I'd have no choice but to ambush them and while I knew it would happen eventually, I wanted to get a decent look at them first.
There were at least half a dozen gathered around a small fire pit. Majority were dwarves but there was one decent sized Minotaur stoking the fire. No doubt he was there to protect them and keep them from arguing amongst themselves. From the looks of a few glum individuals who were busy nursing their cuts and bruises, such things had definitely been occurring regularly.
I moved back behind the tree and checked the weapons strapped to my belt. Evari had provided me with several throwing knives, a dagger and a broadsword. It was more than I was used to, seeing as I didn't usually fight in this form.
I kept my eyes on the Minotaur as I reached for my throwing knives. If I aimed it right I'd only need one. The weapon was thin with a gold infused glass handle and steel blade. Perfect. Unfortunately the place I had chosen to hide didn't provide me with the angle I needed for a decent throw, so I carefully began to pick my way around the perimeter of the clearing, being careful not to make too much noise.
Just as I found the right spot the Minotaur looked up from the fire and took a deep breath through his nose. "Someone is here," he said, raising his hand to call for silence.
My eyes widened in surprise as my fingers clenched around the knife handle. I had to make my throw otherwise I'd be found out before I was ready. The dwarves were on their feet, taking careful steps as they wielded their daggers and bows. I was not to underestimate them; they were very skilled with their weapons. It was half the reason Jadis was able to make use of them.
I raised the knife into my line of sight and took a deep breath, trying my best to block out everything but my target. You only have one shot, I told myself, so make it count. I waited until the Minotaur turned his head and just as our eyes met I flung my arm forward and let the knife fly. It struck him between the eyes and I watched as he slumped to the ground, alerting the others that I was here.
Seeing that I had no other choice I unsheathed my sword and stepped out into the clearing. "Looking for me, were you?" I asked. Call it cruel, but if I was going to have to fight and no doubt kill these creatures I was going to make sure I enjoyed myself.
"Look who it is, lads," one of the dwarves laughed. "Lady Arabella. To what do we owe the pleasure, Your Majesty."
I smiled at his sarcasm. "Nice to know you've kept your manners in check. I'm actually here to deal with your rather unwanted presence." It was odd having a conversation with the people you were about to kill. But if they weren't fond of attacking anytime soon I was happy to continue on as we were. That way I could at least try to gain some information. "Mind if I ask where you're headed?"
Another spoke up. "It's no concern of yours where we go."
"I'm afraid it is, seeing as you're on my land."
"These lands belong to Jadis!"
"Not anymore. If you hadn't noticed, the White Witch has been dead almost seven years now." I raised my eyebrows and swung my sword in a lazy circle. "Not that they were ever hers."
"Watch your tongue," came a low voice from behind me.
I stiffened, watching from the corner of my eye as another Minotaur stepped into view. Where had he been all this time?
His dark eyes focused on his fallen comrade before he raised them to glare at me. "You killed my brother?"
Oh dear. "I'm afraid I can't let you reach your destination. We have no desire to deal with an uprising."
"She knows!" a dwarf shrieked. "Kill her!"
The atmosphere quickly changed from awkwardly polite conversation to an arena death match and I only just managed to ready my sword before the Minotaur lunged at me, his heavy sword striking mine with such force it felt like my body was vibrating.
"You will die at my hand," he growled as we stepped back only to clash again a moment later. I was in no mood to trifle with time and quickly slashed my sword across the leather vest he wore, cutting through the material and into his skin. He clutched at his chest in surprise, his eyes widening as I lunged and drove my sword through his stomach, letting both drop to the ground as I shifted and leaped over his fallen body, tackling the nearest dwarf to the ground.
They swarmed me like ants, trying to stab me with their weapons or get a good enough shot to land an arrow. I rolled over in a desperate attempt to shake them off, crushing a few under my weight. Three down, two to go.
"Grab the dagger!" cried the dwarf nearest me before I caught him between my teeth, cringing a little as his ribs shattered under the strength of my jaws. He let out a low gurgle and went limp, his heavy body striking the ground as I released him from my grip.
I wasn't expecting what came next.
Just as I turned to hunt down the remaining straggler I felt the cold sharpness of a blade cut through my rear flank. I let out a howling scream and scrambled away from the disgusting little creature as he rushed me. My hind legs were starting to go numb as I desperately searched for something to defend myself with. One of the Minotaur's swords caught my eye and I quickly grabbed it between my teeth and held it up just as the dwarf reached me. I squeezed my eyes shut as he rather effectively impaled himself on his comrade's blade.
I waited in silence for a moment before I dropped the blade and shifted. My arms shook as I tried to prop myself up enough to get a decent look at my legs. I wasn't able to shake the dagger free so it was no surprise that I found it still lodged in my left thigh. I cringed. This was going to hurt. Taking a deep breath I reached down and wrapped my fingers around the dark stone handle.
"One, two…" I hesitated for a moment, then gave in. "Three."
The blade slid free with a sharp yank and I screamed as pain lanced up my leg and into the rest of my body. The weapon dropped to the ground and I reached down to clamp my hand over the bleeding wound, but stopped when I got a good look at the injury.
I had expected the puncture to be clean and my blood to be red, but what I saw through my torn pant leg was anything but. The skin surrounding the wound was crusted and black with thin dark lines spreading out over the rest of my leg. I raised my blood-covered hand and gasped. It was not the bright red I was used to seeing; instead it was a sickening burgundy laced with dark purple and endless black.
It didn't take me long to realize what I was dealing with.
"Dryads!" I shrieked as the pain reached my chest. It wouldn't be long before breathing was near impossible. "Help me!"
A collection of flower petals floated down from the trees, taking the shape of three dryad sisters who watched me with worried expressions on their faces. "What has happened to you?" the youngest asked.
I didn't have time to explain. "I need you to send word to King Edmund. Tell him where I am and that I've been stabbed with a dagger coated in Black Shade. I need the Centaurs. Hurry. If he doesn't get here soon, I will die. Go!"
They disappeared in an instant, my plea carried with them on the wind.
My heart raced as I slumped to the ground, too weak to hold myself up. I had heard stories of Black Shade, but never did I think I'd be dealing with it. It moved so fast…
Air was hard to come by as I lay there in the grass, my chest rattling with each barely-there breath I managed to take. My skin burned and my head spun and it wasn't long before I could hardly move.
Darkness came swiftly.
Edmund frantically searched the forest as Phillip cantered up the mountain path. He knew he should have gone with her, but she was so damn stubborn he knew she never would have relented no matter how much he pleaded. He had been anxiously awaiting her return, unable to shake the feeling that something was wrong, when a trio of dryads appeared before him.
"Lady Arabella is hurt," they told him. "She asked that you call for the Centaurs for her injury involves Black Shade." Edmund had asked them to explain further but they denied him, saying that there was not enough time. "Hurry, Your Majesty. She needs you."
Feeling sick to the core, Edmund obeyed his sister's command and called for the Centaurs before retrieving Phillip from the stables. They had passed Arabella's escorts on the way there, the young guards out of breath and looking like spooked woodland creatures. He sent them on their way, letting them know that he had received word of Arabella's situation and was on his way to assist her.
Thankfully no one else delayed his travels after that.
The higher up the mountain they went, the harder it was to see through the trees. Any hint of Arabella's presence had long since disappeared and Edmund was beginning to panic. She had always been good at hiding her tracks but at this point in time her talent wasn't doing them any favors.
"The tracks stop here," Phillip said, lowering his head to where the large paw prints moved away from the trail and into the forest.
"Do you think she went through there?" Edmund asked, pointing towards the mass of trees before them.
"Most likely," Phillip replied, shifting about in surprise as Edmund dismounted and made for the tree line. "Where are you going?"
Edmund barely looked back. "It will be too difficult to make good time if we both go through. I'll walk ahead and call for you if I find her."
Phillip let out a heavy breath through his nose before lowering his head. "As you wish," he said, his dark eyes following the king as he slipped between the trees and went in search of his sister.
"Arabella!" Edmund cried, moving hastily through the thick forest. "Arabella, are you here?"
Silence was his only reply as he struggled through the shrubbery, stumbling over tree roots and ducking beneath low hanging branches. The further he walked, the more his panic grew. If Arabella was here she would have called out by now; something was very wrong.
He opened his mouth to call for her again when the glare of sunlight on metal shone straight into his eyes. He let out a low grunt and raised his hand to shield his eyes from the brightness that speared through the underbrush. "What in the world…" he murmured, squinting his eyes as he moved toward the object on the ground. Half a dozen steps later and he found himself stumbling into a small clearing absolutely littered with bodies. The rather distracting light came from a glass hilted knife buried deep between the eyes of a Minotaur.
Edmund's heart lurched when he realized it was one of Arabella's throwing knives.
"Arabella?" he called, his dark eyes scanning the clearing for any sign of his sister. She had certainly done her job; two Minotaur's lay in the dirt, surrounded by the bodies of almost half a dozen dwarves. He couldn't quite believe she'd taken on such a formidable group on her own. He turned to search the tree line when a small body dressed in royal attire and covered in blood caught his eye.
"Oh no," he breathed and darted across the clearing to fall to his knees beside her. "Phillip!" he yelled, his eyes never straying from his wounded sibling. She had a few cuts and bruises, but the amount of blood that surrounded her couldn't have come from them. No, it came from the gaping stab wound in her thigh. "Arabella," he said, placing both hands on her face, hoping his touch would help rouse her from unconsciousness. She was alarmingly pale. "Arabella, wake up. Come on, look at me. I need you to open your eyes." But she did not respond. He checked her pulse and sent prayers of thanks to the gods when he felt a faint thrumming against his fingers before calling to Phillip again.
The chestnut thoroughbred broke through the trees and let out a surprised whinny when he caught sight of the queen. "Does she live?" he asked.
Edmund nodded, his jaw tight. "Barely, but yes, she lives. We have to get her back to Cair Paravel before it's too late. Help me."
The two of them worked together to get Arabella safely perched upon Phillip's back. Edmund sat behind her, his arms on either side of her body to keep her in place while they moved. Her body was a dead weight against his chest and he couldn't hold back the churning in his gut as he thought of how much time he'd lost in searching for her. With a sharp nudge of Edmund's feet against his horse's sides, they were off, galloping back down the trail towards the castle.
Edmund held tight to his sister the whole way, his cheek pressed against her hair as he prayed to whoever would listen. Let her be okay. Please, let us not be too late.
The air was heavy with steam and incense as the female Centaur ghosted her hands over Arabella's still body, eyes focused on her task. Hardly a word had been spoken since Edmund arrived back at the castle. Arabella was immediately taken to one of the infirmary rooms and placed upon the bed there. Despite the Centaur's – whose name was Sunbeam – efforts, the young queen had yet to rouse from her unwilling slumber.
Edmund stood at the foot of the bed with his sisters by his side. Lucy was tucked under his arm while Susan stood with her hands clasped beneath her chin, her usually bright eyes full of fear and sorrow. No matter what the girls felt, they knew their pain couldn't hold a candle to what Edmund was feeling. He was the one to find her and so he blamed himself for her current state.
Sunbeam released a heavy breath and stepped back from the bed, head bowed in what Edmund figured was a silent prayer to the Gods, perhaps to Aslan as well.
Lucy spoke up before the healer could. "Will she be alright?" The panic in her voice was impossible to miss. Lucy adored Arabella and the possibility of losing her had hit the youngest Pevensie girl hard.
Sunbeam looked to Lucy with soothing eyes. "I have done all I can for the moment. The steam is laced with herbs that will help cleanse her body of the poison. Until she wakes, all we can do is continue to clean her wound and make sure she stays hydrated."
Susan's brows pulled tight. "What exactly is this poison everyone keeps talking about?" Her eyes shifted to the dagger on the bedside table, still coated in Arabella's dried blood and some other dark substance.
"It is called Black Shade," Sunbeam began. "A rare flower found only in the High Mountains far, far to the north. Once it has been liquefied it can be used as one of the deadliest poisons in Narnia's history."
"Then why not destroy them all?" Susan asked. "You said they were rare flowers. If you managed to find the last few and kill them, then there would be no threat of this ever happening again."
Sunbeam shook her head. "The flowers are born from dark magic. There must always be balance in this world, Your Majesty. We need the darkness to balance the light, so even if we destroyed the flowers that currently bloomed, more would grow in their place."
"Well, it's fairly obvious that these people managed to find one and melt it down. But what happens now? How are we supposed to know if she'll survive?" Lucy interjected, her voice shaking with rising terror.
"There's no way to know, little Queen. As much as I'd like to tell you otherwise, the final result is up to Arabella." She glanced at the girl on the bed, eyes shifting restlessly behind her closed lids. "When it is first administered, Black Shade paralyzes the victim so that they cannot seek help to counteract its effects. They are put in a sort of trace-like state that they must fight their way out of on their own. I know it sounds horrible, but don't fret. Your sister is strong and is already showing signs of movement. When she wakes we can begin to flush her system of the poison. It will be a long process, but once we get past the first hurdle we can start Arabella on the journey to recovery."
"What can we do?" she asked, tightening her grip around Edmund's waist.
Sunbeam smiled. "Stay with her. Talk to her. Let her know that she's not alone; she will need you for the trials ahead."
Lucy nodded, watching as Sunbeam bowed and headed for the door. She would be back in a half hour to check on Arabella again.
Slowly, carefully, the young royals took their places beside the bed. Lucy sat by Arabella's head, stroking the tangled locks away from her face while Edmund perched himself at her feet, fingers reaching for her limp hand. Her skin was a little cold but her pulse was still there, thrumming against his fingertips like a hummingbirds wings.
Susan spoke up after a few minutes of silence. "Someone needs to send word to Peter. She needs him."
"I'll go see the mermaids," Lucy volunteered. "They're faster than the dryads." She rose to her feet and was out of the room in seconds, her light footsteps echoing off the walls.
"Do you think Peter can feel her?" Susan asked, eyes intent on her sister's face. "Her pain, I mean. You don't think the effects of the poison could seep through their bond and harm him, do you?"
Edmund shrugged. "I don't know, but I do know she'd never let anything happen to him. She'd fight it all the way."
Arabella began to contract a fever around midnight.
Edmund had been sitting vigil by her side, skimming one of her favourite books, when he heard her make small sounds of discomfort. In an instant he'd dropped the book and leaned forward to take her hand in his, unable to hold back his gasp when he felt her burning skin. It was like sticking your hand into a roaring fire.
"Sunbeam!" he yelled, frantic and unsure as Arabella's head turned slowly from side to side.
The Centaur poked her head into the room and upon seeing the young queen, quickly crossed the distance to the bed. "She has a fever?"
Edmund nodded and let go of her hand as her temperature continued to rise. "What does this mean?"
Sunbeam touched the back of her hand to Arabella's forehead, a thoughtful hum rolling in the back of her throat. "The paralysis is wearing off. Her body can now start to fight off the effects of the poison."
Edmund let out a heavy sigh of relief, eyes roaming over his sister's face. A light sheen of sweat was beginning to coat her skin. "So, she'll be okay now?"
"It's hard to say. The battle has only just begun. Now that the paralysis is fading her body will try to expel the poison from within in whatever manner it can. She will become quite ill, but if she remains strong, I have every faith that she will recover."
Edmund nodded. He knew she would not give him false hope, just as he would not give it to Susan and Lucy. Arabella had a long fight ahead of her, and he would do whatever he could to see her through. "She's burning up," he murmured, letting his fingers touch the soft skin of her forearm. "Surely this temperature is dangerous?"
Sunbeam shrugged. "Everything about Black Shade is dangerous. The most we can do is keep her cool. I'll go fetch some towels and cold water."
Edmund didn't look away from his sister as Sunbeam left the room. The paralysis was wearing off; this was a good sign. It showed that she was fighting back. It was a small step, but a step nonetheless. "You can do this," he told her, taking her hand and squeezing tightly. "You're going to be okay."
Consciousness came in broken flashes, blurry moments of reality and voices speaking my name.
It was hard to make sense of what was happening around me. My head was aching and my leg showed no signs of ceasing its relentless throbbing. But most of all, my body burned. It felt like I had been dropped into the lava pit of an active volcano and was being burned alive, yet I did not perish. I tried to scratch at my skin but people pulled my hands away before they could make contact. I tried moving away from the pain, but any shift of muscle made my stomach roll. I was trapped within my own inferno.
"Arabella… can you hear me…?"
I knew that voice; heavy and strong, but blurred around the edges as the flames licked at my ears. A distant ringing began inside my head, making it harder to focus, but I'd heard enough. It was Edmund. He'd found me.
But where was I now? Trapped in the depths with Hades, or was he playing a cruel joke and letting me waste away in Limbo?
The flames screeched and danced inside me, and I was gone.
The next time I woke, it was with a persistent ache in my stomach. I grimaced and tried to curl up into a ball to force it away, but the moment I moved my legs I felt like I was going to be sick. I struggled to move, to find something to hold onto before it happened.
"Lucy, grab the bucket!"
I felt a cold hand on my shoulder, gently easing me forward so that I was hunched over what I assumed was the bucket, the icy rim pressing against my chin. I tried to open my eyes but it felt like they had been sewn shut and crusted over. At this point my sight didn't matter for I was too busy heaving my insides into the bucket.
My throat burned and I felt tears sting the corners of my closed eyes. This was horrible, not unlike any other time I'd been forced to retch. This burned and scratched my throat, stinging with something acidic and dark. My heart raced as I choked and struggled to breathe.
"Sunbeam, what's happening?" Susan yelled, or at least it sounded like yelling to me. Her voice rattled my brain and made everything sound fuzzy for a moment.
A soft, unfamiliar voice answered her. "Her body is beginning to expel the poison. Once she has emptied her stomach we will see about giving her some herbal drinks to give her strength. I've sent one of my sisters to fetch some healing flowers from the Western Lagoon. She should be back before dusk."
The words sank into my head but failed to make much sense as I coughed and retched. Soon enough there was nothing left for my body to expel and I fell back into the soft clouds with a heavy sigh. For a moment my eyes opened and I was greeted by two blurry faces and a dark ceiling. Perhaps it was not Limbo, not if Susan and Lucy were here.
I flinched and turned my head towards what I assumed was a pillow. It was damp and cold against my cheek. I was tired. I didn't want voices taunting me.
"Be strong, my love. Be strong."
My stomach twisted and I let out a pained cry as the fire roared within me. The inferno had yet to ease, still taking pleasure in torturing me with its never ending heat.
"You can fight this. I have faith in you."
Who was talking to me?
"Who…" I struggled, my voice scratchy and weak. "Who's… there?"
"Arabella?" Cold hands gripped mine as a different voice echoed inside my head. Edmund. "Arabella, are you awake?"
"I'm not far, sweetheart. Hang in there."
"What's h-happening… to me…?"
"You need to rest, Arabella," Edmund persisted.
"He's right. I know it hurts, but you need to rest if you're going to get better."
Then it hit me. "Peter…" I croaked.
Edmund's hands clutched mine with alarming strength. "He'll be here soon," he promised. "We got word this morning. He's on his way."
The Bond struggled within me, reaching out for someone who apparently was not there. My eyes opened and I saw Edmund's face, warped and shifting with the tears in my eyes, but it was there. "Ed," I managed.
He smiled. "I'm here. You're doing so well, Arabella."
The fire seemed to have had enough of my talking for it roared and scorched me from within. Edmund dropped my hands as I let out an agonized scream and arched up off the bed, clawing at the sweat-soaked sheets as the flames licked their way up the tether that bound me to my husband.
"No," I growled, digging my fingers in and doing everything in my limited power to pull the flames back. "You… will not… touch him…"
"What's going on?" Edmund asked.
That same voice from earlier spoke back to him. "She's keeping Peter safe. The poison has recognized another entity inside her, for she and Peter are bound. It must be trying to get to him through her, but she's fighting it off."
"She was asking for him before," he continued. My vision blurred again as I thrashed around on the bed.
"She is delusional at the moment. She could very well be hearing voices, for all we know."
"Peter," I whimpered.
"Hold on, Arabella. I love you."
Finally the flames admitted defeat and skulked back into my body. I sobbed at the pain, but better me than Peter. He didn't deserve this.
My victory would have to be enough for now. I didn't struggle as the darkness swarmed me.
Peter could hardly contain his relief as he finally stepped through the doors of Cair Paravel. The last few days had been torturous for him; he'd been working to rebuild homes for a village struck down by a vicious storm when he received word from the mermaids that Arabella had been poisoned and was practically fighting for life. He had apologized profusely to the villagers before leaving them behind with his soldiers to continue their work. The journey had taken longer than he'd expected, but finally he was here.
He just hoped he wasn't too late.
His footfalls echoed loudly off the walls as he ran to find someone, anyone who could give him news on his wife's condition. "Evari!" he yelled, spotting the faun as she made her way to the weapons room.
Her eyes widened at the sight of him and she gave a quick bow before speaking. "Your Majesty. You're back early; I assume you're here to see Lady Arabella?"
He nodded. "How is she?"
Evari frowned. "I'm afraid I haven't been in to see her, but Queen Susan has informed me that she's doing well. She's still in the depths of her fever, but she's responding to people's voices."
Peter let out a sigh of relief and looked over her shoulder for his siblings. "Where is she now?"
"In the infirmary, Your Majesty."
He barely remembered to thank her before he was sprinting down the halls to the infirmary. Now that he was closer to her he could feel the pain she was dealing with. It bit at his stomach and stole the breath from his lungs, but he fought the discomfort and pushed on.
Just as he reached the room where Arabella was being kept, the door opened and a rather unexpected figure strode into the hall. "Aslan?"
The Great Lion lowered his head in acknowledgment before dropping back onto his hindquarters. "It's good to see you, Peter."
Peter's eyes flicked between Arabella's father and the door that separated them. "When did you get here?" Of course he'd be here. His daughter had been poisoned, for goodness sake.
"This morning. I spoke with Arabella a few hours ago," he offered, hoping to give Peter what little reassurance he could. "According to the Centaur she's still a bit delusional, but they've managed to give her some healing serum which should take effect before nightfall."
Peter nodded. "What are the chances of her… surviving?"
Aslan gave a small smile. "They're improving." The cat's eyes were full of understanding. "She's been asking for you."
Aslan chuckled. "Yes, she has. Now, why don't you go in and see her?" He rose to his feet and stepped away from the door, giving Peter free passage into the room.
Peter stepped up to the door and took a deep breath before turning the handle and stepping inside.
His heart lurched as the scene before him came together. His siblings were crowded around the large bed, all worried faces and tired eyes. A female Centaur stood beside his wife, rubbing her back as she retched fluid – probably water – into a bucket. When she was done, Susan stepped forward and helped settle her back down, wiping her mouth with a towel before rinsing it and dabbing the sweat from her brow.
Arabella looked horrid. Her face was pale and drawn, her eyelids a deep purple. Her hair and clothes – he assumed they had changed her into the thin nightgown she now wore – were damp with sweat and her breaths were heavy, rattling around in her chest and sending shivers down his spine.
Lucy looked away from her sister and caught sight of Peter standing in the doorway. "Peter!" she cried. "You're here!" She rose to her feet and ran at him, wrapping her arms around him when she was close enough. He held her tight, his eyes never straying from the woman on the bed. "I'm so glad you're finally here."
"Lucy," he managed. "How is she?"
"Better now that you're here, I'm sure. Come on." She took his hand and gently led him to Arabella's bedside. "Peter, this is Sunbeam. She's a healer."
Peter dipped his head. "I can't thank you enough for taking care of her."
Sunbeam gave him a weary smile. "It's my pleasure, Your Majesty. She is very dear to us all."
He glanced at his wife before the sharp dagger on the bedside table caught his eye. "What is this?" he asked, plucking the weapon from where it rested. He felt sick when he realized it was Arabella's blood that coated the blade.
"It's what they used to poison her," Edmund replied. The two brothers stared each other down for a moment, sharing anger and grief. "She went to deal with some of Jadis's stragglers up in the mountains and one of them stabbed her in the leg. The blade was coated in Black Shade, a flower that can apparently be used as poison." Edmund lifted the nightgown away from Arabella's legs, revealing her gauze-wrapped thigh with a deep patch of blood staining the material.
"Where are the stragglers now?" Peter asked, dropping the dagger back onto the table.
"All dead. She got rid of them before the poison took hold."
He grimaced and dropped to his knees beside the bed, barely flinching as her burning hand scorched his skin. Her eyelids fluttered at his touch and he watched as she turned her head toward him. He could feel her pain through their point of contact and struggled to find his breath. What she must be dealing with…
"Arabella," he whispered. "My brave girl. I'm here."
She let out a low grunt and barely managed to open her eyes. He noticed the glassy coating and knew she would most likely have no recollection of this. "Peter," she breathed.
He let out a quiet sob and lifted her hand to his mouth. He didn't care that it burned. She was alive. "I'm here, my love. I'm here."
Arabella's health slowly began to improve after Peter's arrival. His presence seemed to give her the courage and strength she needed to recover; she still had a way to go before she was completely rid of any lingering effects, but she was getting there.
Peter remained vigil by her side. He took his meals in her room – although he was very rarely hungry – and slept in his chair, half draped over the bed. He was there when her fever reached its zenith, her body shifting from hot to cold with dizzying speed, struggling to expel whatever it could from her stomach to the point where she was merely dry-heaving over the bucket. She begged and pleaded for mercy from the Gods before finally, four days into her delirium, they granted her respite.
Sunbeam gently touched her fingers to Arabella's sweat soaked skin. "Her fever has broken," she announced with a happy smile, gazing over at the Pevensie children who were laughing and embracing each other with the good news. Aslan sat by the open balcony doors, his eyes shining with relief for his daughter.
Peter pressed his wife's hand to his cheek, eyes swimming with unshed tears. "You did it," he whispered, his lips gently touching her palm.
"What now?" Lucy asked as Susan went to fetch some fresh towels. "She's going to start getting better, right?"
"Yes, she is," Sunbeam replied, smoothing Arabella's tangled hair away from her face and neck. "We will brew more healing serum to help cleanse her organs and perhaps put a leaf coating over her wound to speed the healing process. For now, though, she must rest. She's fought a hard battle these last few days, what she needs now is time. When she's ready, she will wake."
It was another two days before she opened her eyes to the waking world. Sunbeam had remained attentive to her every need, tilting her forward so that she could drink the healing serum and keeping her temperature within a healthy range. Peter had watched with the utmost fascination as she covered the ghastly – but slowly healing – stab wound with peculiar looking leaves soaked overnight in water.
"They will clear the wound of any remaining poison or possibility of infection. There are also properties within that will help to ease the scarring. She will scar, there is no doubt about it, but it will not be quite so noticeable," Sunbeam explained before leaving the room and allowing the queen to rest.
"You have done well, Peter," Aslan praised, taking his place beside the weary king.
Peter jumped a little, having been unaware of the other presence in the room. "I haven't done anything," he remarked, eyebrows pulling together in confusion.
Aslan gazed upon his daughter's peaceful face. "You are mistaken. Your unwavering faith has been tantamount to her recovery. There is no greater force than the love two soul mates share. Without you, she may not have survived. Most who come into dealings with Black Shade succumb before the fever has a chance to set in."
Peter's jaw tightened. "I wish there was something I could have done. If I had been there…"
"If you had been there, Arabella would have taken the blow for you. Fate cannot be stopped, Peter. This was always going to happen to her and her alone, for she has the strength to pull through and emerge victorious." Aslan gave him an encouraging smile and rose to his feet. "You needn't fret any longer," he continued. "I believe she is about to wake."
Peter's gaze shot back to his wife who eyes were shifting behind her closed lids. He took her hand and delighted in the strength of her grip around his fingers. "Arabella?"
She let out a soft breath as her eyelids fluttered and lifted, clear eyes flicking around the room before settling on Peter's face. A battle-weary smile tugged at her lips. "Hi," she whispered.
"It's good to see you eating again," Lucy chirped, perched on the end of my bed.
"Forget eating, it's good to see you conscious," Edmund shot back, unable to contain his laughter as I kicked at him with my uninjured leg.
Now that I was awake and no long dealing with the effects of my fever-induced delirium, I had been moved back to my usual sleeping quarters with Peter. It didn't matter that I was eating and back in my own bed, I was just glad to be rid of all the sweat and gunk that had coated my body all week. Sunbeam had laughed to herself as I let out repeated sighs of bliss while soaking in the bath. At one point I even told her I wasn't getting out.
I smiled and took another sip of my soup. I wasn't allowed to eat solids yet seeing as my stomach was still tender, but I was keeping things down and that was what we had been hoping for. "I wouldn't mind being delirious again if it meant I didn't have to deal with your snark."
Edmund's face fell into a mask of mock-anguish. "Ouch. That hurt."
I poked my tongue out at him and he smiled, reaching out to tug on a lock of my hair.
"Alright, you two, that's enough. She needs to rest."
I looked past Lucy's shoulder to see Peter standing in the doorway, his expression half stern, half playful. I had been dealing with visitors all day; Evari had finally been allowed to see me and then Aslan had kept me company for a few hours. It had been good to speak to him about what I'd been through and to know that he'd been here the whole time was very touching. He would not leave the castle until I had fully recovered.
"Fine," Edmund sighed, taking my hand and giving it a gentle squeeze. "You take it easy," he said, waiting as Lucy leaned over to hug me before they left the room.
Peter closed the door behind them and slowly made his way toward me. "How are you feeling?" he asked.
I set my bowl aside and leaned back against the headboard. "Much better. I still have a bit of a headache, but it doesn't feel like Oreius kicked me in the head anymore."
He chuckled and sat beside me on the mattress. "I'm glad." His eyes shone for a moment before his expression darkened. Uh oh. I knew this conversation was coming; he'd been so wonderful since I'd woken, but now we had things to discuss. "Listen, about what happened…"
I grimaced. "I know," I sighed. "I was foolish. I should have taken someone with me."
Peter frowned. "Edmund told me you left with a group of guards."
"I did, but I made them stay down at the base of the mountain." My cheeks flushed as I realized just how irresponsible I had been.
"Arabella," he groaned. "Do you not understand how severe the consequences were? You could have died."
I flinched. "I know. I should have taken Edmund with me, I should have let the guards up the mountain, but I didn't and I'm sorry."
He took my hands and bent his head so that our eyes were level. "You don't understand, Arabella," he whispered and I suddenly felt a surge of fear through the bond, like ice in my blood. "I almost lost you. You came so close to dying and then I would have been alone in this world. I can't live without you, but your recklessness almost cost you your life and made it reality."
My eyes stung with tears and Peter's expression softened. "Oh, sweetheart, don't cry." He pulled me into his arms, resting his chin atop my head. "I didn't mean to upset you, I was just trying to show you that you need to be more careful." His fingers stroked my back as I wept into his shirt. "Shh, my love. It's okay."
"I'm so sorry, Peter," I sobbed. "I wasn't thinking."
"No, you weren't." His blunt honesty stung, but I knew it was necessary. "But it's behind us now. Everything's okay." He leaned back to look at me, watching as my sobs settled into gentle hiccups. "Just promise me that you'll be careful next time."
"I promise," I whispered and stretched up to kiss him. His lips were soft and yielding, molding with mine like we had been kissing for a lifetime. "You know," I said when we parted, our foreheads touching. "You really ought to be proud of Edmund. If it wasn't for him, I probably wouldn't be here."
He nodded a little and leaned back, letting me curl up against him. "I am very proud of him. He saved your life and for that I am forever in his debt."
I smiled at his words and nuzzled my face into his chest, listening to his heart beating steadily against my ear. "I love you, Peter."
He pressed a kiss to the crown of my head. "I love you, too. Now get some rest." He scooted down until we were both lying flat on the mattress, his fingers stroking through my hair. It didn't take me long to fall asleep, protected from the world in the strong embrace of his arms.
Well, that was eventful :)
As stressful as this chapter was, I really enjoyed writing it. I'd had the idea in my head for quite a while and finally being able to write it down was very fun.
I'm not sure when the next chapter will be posted. I know what I want to write for it, but I don't have enough backstory right now, so I'm going to wait until I do. In the meantime, I may write some more short chapters. I have another idea or two scribbled down in my trusty notebook, so we'll see.
Until then, I'd love to hear your thoughts :)