Poisoned Chalice

Disclaimer: I own nothing. The Pevensies and their world belong to Disney and CS Lewis

Author's N: I've been struggling with writing for Narnia, the last six months. I finally put pen to paper, and this is what came out. Please don't blame our boys!

Everything is prepared. Peter makes sure that the wine is upon their table; that his siblings have gone to wash up before he adds the last ingredient. It is the second year of their reign; and they are settling into an easy routine. Dinner is their time though; Peter has been rather stern about that. With all the training, all the politics and audiences, he has felt the need to keep this one English thing, to remind them all of where they came from.

Spring has come to them for the second time in their reign, and Peter has watched as Edmund grew quiet and fearful as the snow appeared. Edmund's moods are as predictable as the weather; and sometimes, Peter thinks his brother will never forgive himself for all that occurred when they first came into this Kingdom of theirs.

Part of him is glad.

His expression darkens just a little as Edmund comes down the stairs, dressed warmly in trousers and a tunic of grey, looking rather more confident than Peter thinks he should be. The High King nods at Mirrik, the one guard that is allowed at these dinners, and the teenage centaur bows, before passing his King the simple glass, filled with mead. "Ed," Peter greets his brother warmly, clapping a hand on his brother's arm, which Edmund responds to with the same, before taking the cup gratefully.

"May Aslan bless our food, brother," Something flickers across Peter's features, but it is gone before Edmund can fully understand it. Before he can open his mouth to ask questions, the girls are there, whispering over some joke told by the ravens, each kissing their brothers on the cheeks before settling down to the dinner. Edmund chalks it up to weariness, and takes his seat opposite Lucy, smiling gently at his sister, who is dressed in pale green, her hair done up in the latest Telmar fashion. Susan, taking her seat beside him, is dressed in a similar fashion, but wearing blue instead. The High King takes his seat at the head of the table, nodding to Mirrik, who passes each sibling a glass before filling it for them.

Peter clears his throat, and raises his glass. "… we raise our glass to Aslan, who protects us in these harsh times, and keeps our people safe." he pauses, then meets Edmund's eye for a moment. "we ask for blessings upon those that we hold close, and warn those that mean to usurp us."

"Peter..." Susan murmurs, but Peter ignores her, continuing.

"There is a trial coming, my family. Sides may have to be chosen, lines drawn. The first strike is always the deadliest, as the viper would say." Lucy is shifting uneasily in her seat at this point, and Edmund cannot look away from the strange expression in his brother's eyes. He knows that things have been – unruly. Not all their subjects had been pleased by humans ruling over animals – Aslan's blessing or no. He knows that Peter is not happy that Edmund had to point out the fact before the High King realised the strength of their dissatisfaction. But he had sthought that they had an understanding; that the High King knew he had his brother's sword, if it were needed.

Apparently, Edmund was very, very wrong. His thought process is cut short as Peter smiles, and offers his glass forward. "To Family," the High King states, and this time there is no mistaking the bitterness that fills his tone.

"To family," Edmund and Lucy echo, and Edmund raises an eyebrow as he notices Susan does not drink at first, but meets her brother's eyes for a moment, thoughtfully, challengingly, before eventually taking a long drink.

There is silence, whilst they gather their thoughts and their food; and even the centaur takes his leave of them, shutting the door behind him quietly. Susan's eyes shift between her brothers, sensing the rift between them, but – in typical Gentle fashion – not willing to quite question it just yet. Lucy reaches over to grip Edmund's hand beneath the table, her own clammy.

Dinner stretches on for an hour, the odd conversation that either of the girls is brave enough to strike up fading into silence, as Peter and Edmund both give non-committal answers. For the vast majority of the time, Edmund pushes food around his plate, whilst in comparison, Peter wolfs his down with scantly clad enjoyment. The sisters bite delicately at their food, Lucy mimicking her sister's manners.

When dinner ends, it is with relief. Edmund pushes back his plate, and is about to excuse himself when there is a strange choking sound. Turning to find the source, he sees Peter – bent over the table and coughing up blood. The blonde's eyes are wild as he grasps helplessly for Susan, who steps away from him and shoves him violently. The High King falls to the ground, gasping. Immediately Edmund is at his side, pleading his sisters to find Lucy's cordial – but Lucy, too, is unmoving.

The world seems to shudder as Peter does – breath by breath, until the King's eyes roll into the back of his head, and he stills.

"What….?"

"He planned to poison you," Susan murmurs quietly, calmly, exchanging a look with Lucy. "To get back at you for betraying Narnia and Aslan. He wanted you to suffer, Ed. You would have been sick for days, if not longer."

"The symptoms of claridica are not pleasant," demurs Lucy, kneeling next to Peter to double check his pulse.

Edmund is frozen – staring at his sisters as though he does not know them. "You… poisoned the High King." He whispers.

Susan fixes him with a raised eyebrow and a challenge. "It was him or you, Ed. … and Peter lost his way a long time ago."

Edmund cannot deny that, much as he would like to. The song of the lost soldiers of their last war still sings through his veins, a bitter requiem. He swallows hard. "No one will believe…. One of us didn't do it."

"I don't intend to lie." Susan is calm – so calm that Edmund wonders how good an actress she really is; and whether he ever really knew her. It is a disturbing thought – he has known her, or thought he had, at least, from the second he opened his eyes as a babe. But she stands before him a stranger. A shudder pulses through the King, and he swallows hard. Susan's smile stays in place as she sweeps from the room. Moments later, two centaurs and a tiger – one of Peter's, Ed recognises, - enter the room. There is soft, murmured discussion that he cannot quite understand in his shock, but it is clear that they are not reacting… shocked. No indeed, the centaurs seem rather calm and collected.

"Sagraya. Please take Edmund to his rooms," States Lucy, quietly. "I think he is struggling." The tiger bows and nods to Edmund.

"Come, young King."

The rest of the week is a strange nightmare that dances in front of the Just's eyes. He cannot meet the gaze of any of their subjects when they murmur how sorry they were to hear about the High King's heart, cannot even meet Aslan's eyes as the Lion appears the day of Peter's funeral. Aslan seems fooled, though, because Susan is still alive by the end of it – and Edmund's grip is tight on his blade for most of it. He's not exactly sure he can take on a Lion who may or may not be a God… but in defence of his sister, he would have tried.

Susan takes up Peter's throne – as eldest, it is her right – and Edmund can barely look at her as she holds Rhidon with a sort of shameless pride. She rules fiercely, and becomes known as Susan the Gentle Death. They have to go out with armed guards, for there are far too many now who would be glad to see the end of the Pevensie reign.

When the Stag calls them forth from Narnia to England, when they tumble through that wardrobe, Edmund's first thought is of how they will tell their mother of their brother's passing when they return home. The professor stumbles in on them, and his expression shifts. He is cautious but kind as he leads them downstairs, letting them explain and assuring them that he absolutely believes them.

Upon entering the sitting room, Edmund understands why. Peter is sat by the fire, hunched over, older than the Just ever remembers his brother being. He looks haggard, and something in Edmund clenches. He moves from Susan and Lucy's side; and though he knows, he does, that they were trying to protect him all those years ago, he has thought about what he would do with the opportunity to speak to Peter again ever since.

He kneels next to the High King as he would in Narnia, and bows his head. "Sire."

Peter opens his eyes and manages to give Edmund the tiniest of smiles, thin though it is. "Edmund. Welcome home."

There is a long pause, and then the sound of doors slamming as Susan runs through the house, up to the rooms that she and Lucy once shared, flinging herself onto the bed as she sobs.

Lucy bites her lip, and tentively steps forward. She is about to speak, when the Professor interrupts her with a kind smile and a touch to Peter's shoulder. "Well then," he murmurs. "Lets see about getting some tea on, hmm? I'm sure Macready has been hiding the biscuits, and I'm certain this is rather a biscuit kind of talk," He bumbles from the room, but Edmund's head is still bowed. He cannot look at Peter. He cannot look at Lucy – he feels choked with emotion.

There is a moment, then Peter's hand is upon his brother's shoulder, warm, gentle. "Edmund." He repeats, again, and when Edmund does finally look up, Peter's eyes are shining with tears. The High King glances over at Lucy, motioning her over, then opens his arms. "Welcome home, my dear, dear family."

Finis.

Author's N:

All comments are appreciated!