The Knight And The Lady
Summary: The Just King loves his sisters, but is there room in his heart for another girl?
Author's Notes: I'm such a writing machine these days ...
Anyway, when I posted A Narnian (K)night, I received a couple of reviews/messages from readers who were expressing their interest in reading more about Edmund and sweet Medeha from Terebinthia ... and who am I to deny this to them? In case you haven't read A Narnian (K)night, I would advise you to do so before reading this fic ...
I do hope you'll enjoy ... and please let me know what you think afterwards :)
Disclaimer: The usual applies (as written on my profile)
Lydwina Marie has edited this for me again; thank you so much :)
The morning of the feast dawned cool and clear, coloring the horizon a deep red hue. It was unusual, though, for King Edmund the Just to be awake in time to witness this beautiful spectacle – this particular morning, however, it was a different story. But, truth to be told, it hadn't been of his own choosing. His sister, Queen Susan, had just swept out the door, her long skirts brushing the floor and her high-spirited voice still ringing in Edmund's ears.
"Now, now, brother, it's high time you got out of bed! There is still so much to be done before the feast tonight," she had said to him.
Grumbling a few words he hoped she had not heard into his pillow, he had turned over, entangling himself into the duvet in the process, just in case she decided to try and rip that away. And indeed she had tried but had given up soon, sighing, "oh dear... well, I really don't have time to fight over this today. Just note please, that I'm sending Hermus over in half an hour, so see to it that you'll be up and ready by then."
Listening to his sister's cheerful morning greetings to everyone as she hurried back down the corridor again, Edmund rolled over in bed once more and groaned quietly, trying to calculate how long he could stay under the covers and still be up and washed before the faun dressmaker would come and force him to try on the night's attire. It was only today that Hermus would have the chance to make his finishing touches on the king's outfit. Admittedly it was a little late to be doing this, and Susan would not have agreed if there had been another way, but with so many preparations still to be done, and Edmund just having returned from his latest tour to the north, there had been no other option.
Ten minutes should suffice to get ready, the tired king thought to himself. Actually, from past experiences he knew he could make it in five – but today he had better be on the safe side, for his elder sister might have a fit, if something – anything – were to go wrong.
But even that still meant he had twenty more minutes to himself.
Enough time to think through the events of last night. The acquaintance he had made.
He had to admit that she had left more of an impression on him than he had thought she would; certainly more than any other girl or woman before.
At first, seeing her stand by the railing the previous night, he had felt like it would have been impolite to not go and say hello. Then the fact that she had been so deep in thought that she hadn't heard him approach had intrigued him. Next he had been quite impressed by the fact that she had not been completely lost for words or giggly – as most ladies tended to do when they were dealing with a king.
It wasn't until she asked him about Peter that he realised that she obviously didn't know who he was. And something inside of him had made him want to keep it that way; maybe it was just the comfort of knowing that to her he was nothing more than a friendly stranger. Now, however, he did feel a little guilty about leaving her in the dark; Medeha would be in for a surprise that night, and would probably feel very bad about not having known. He would never hear the end of it from Susan if she knew about the whole affair.
But he might talk to Lucy later, to find out what she thought.
Most young ladies he had met were terrible chatter boxes, always to be found in a group – and usually swooning over his brother. (Not that Edmund could blame them; Peter was, after all, High King over the rest of them. That alone was impressing. And he was also quite pleasant to look at; broad shoulders, angular features and that golden-blond hair of his ... there was no arguing about it)
However, the conversation with Medeha had turned out to be quite pleasant, and it wasn't a lie, either, when Edmund had told her about remembering her picture very well. She was indeed a sweet-looking young woman. He liked her soft features, framed by a thick mane of wavy maroon hair, and her eyes shone bright and friendly. Most of all, though, her smile had intrigued him; shy though it was, so very genuine all the same.
It was only then that Edmund suddenly realised, with some shock, that he had lost himself in his thoughts and forgot the time; he could already hear the voice of Hermus, talking to himself as was his unfortunate habit, approaching along the hall. Next there was a gentle knock on the door.
"My lord king?"
Blast! He hadn't washed at all yet, and his hair was a mess. Not that Hermus would allow himself to comment on that, but he was bound to tell Susan, even if only by accident. (Susan had a way of getting things out of the faun even if Hermus promised not to say a word.)
"Just a moment," Edmund called out. He got himself ready in record time, although his hair was wet and still rumpled over his eyes.
Then there was another, much more forceful, knock on the door. "Ed! Are you decent?"
He swore again. Lucy!
"We're coming in now anyways," the Valiant Queen added before she even received an answer. In her opinion this was enough of a warning before she swung the door open and swept in, Hermus on her heels. A new silken tunic hung draped over Hermus' bent arm, and Edmund noticed with pleasure that the faun looked rather sheepish, probably half-heartedly expecting the king to be stark naked. When he saw that this was not the case, the faun let out a relieved breath.
Raising an eyebrow at the intruders, Edmund asked, "Where's Susan?"
Lucy shrugged. "Oh, she said she didn't have time for your morning attitude today. She left it to me to make sure that you behaved yourself with Hermus."
Eyebrow still raised, Edmund turned to the faun. "Have I ever not?"
As much as fauns could blush, poor Hermus did so. "I, er... well... when His Majesty was younger... sometimes he, well... though of course today..." he stammered, but Lucy interrupted him with a snort and a wave of her hand.
"Stop yelping like a dog, Hermus. We all know the beast Edmund can be when his patience is tested. And, well... fitting the clothes Susan wants us to dress up in can be quite trying – especially this early in the morning." Lucy winked at her brother, who decided to nod gratefully in agreement and leave it at that.
Hermus seemed thoroughly relieved at Lucy's words. "Well, then, if His Majesty would kindly put on his new attire..."
Edmund, wearing naught but his breeches and undershirt, took the silken garment from the faun and felt wrapped up like a Christmas gift just by holding it. When he put it on, however, he saw Lucy smiling at him appreciatively.
"You look nice, Ed," she said, and the honesty in her tone made him think that this time Susan might have actually shown a little bit of a decent taste after all. If there was any indicator that he didn't look completely silly, then it was Lucy's initial reaction.
He started tugging at the fabric here and there, then lifted and stretched his arms, finding it a little uncomfortable to move. The tunic had been sewn after the example of his latest festive attire, made for a banquet held at Anvard, just before winter had set in. Then most of the winter he had spent, together with Peter, in Narnia's north, helping citizens to survive its uncommon harshness, handing out food and firewood and even transporting some of the weakest to other places where the cold wasn't as deadly. It had been the coldest and longest winter in ten years; Edmund had been home at Cair Paravel for less than a week.
Lucy watched them both as Hermus started picking at the tunic, listening with a grin as the faun finally mumbled, pins between his lips, "A bit tight around the shoulders..." Hermus took the pins from his mouth and gave the king a thorough mustering. "Seems as though His Majesty has become a little broader as of late."
Feeling quite pleased with himself, Edmund replied. "Well, can you widen it? I intend to be fully capable of moving tonight."
"Of course, sire," said the faun, nodding. "If you'd just take it off, then I can take it to my study and undo the seams. I'll be right back."
Hermus had disappeared through the door, Lucy came over and swatted her brother playfully on the back of his head. "Stop looking so smug," she chided.
"Just grant a man his accomplishments," he said, rubbing the place where she had smacked him.
Lucy laughed but soon she sobered up again. "Honestly, Ed, next time we really need to get this done long before the day of the feast. If Hermus has to redo the seams more than once, we'll never get you ready in time."
"Not my fault Susan's kept him so busy with sewing new tablecloths and making tapestries all the time since I returned," Edmund retorted. "Honestly, Lu, I barely recognised our banquet hall."
"She just wants everything in order for a perfect feast. It's the ten year anniversary of our coronation, after all, and – in case you've forgotten – also the ten year anniversary of her –"
"I haven't forgotten," he cut her off, his tone a little sharper than he had intended it to be. Feeling sorry for that, he continued in a gentler voice, "Lu, do you have a minute? There's something I thought I might just run by you..."
"What it is?" Her curiosity was spiked at once by his serious tone.
"Promise you won't say anything to Susan or – Aslan forbid – Peter?"
Lucy looked almost affronted at that; she prided herself on being completely trustworthy. "Do I really have to say it?"
Edmund grinned, then started, a little hesitantly. "Last night, when I –"
Footsteps approaching and Susan's voice in the hall caused him to stop abruptly. A moment later, the door swung open and both Susan and Peter stuck their heads in. "Are you ready yet?"
But it took another full hour until everything was fitted well and the faun could finally make the finishing touches on the Just King's festive attire. Despite Edmund's hope, there was no further chance to talk to Lucy alone again, for Susan kept them all busy. She even chased both of her brothers to the royal barber to have their hair cut. Later, when they were finally off the hook, Lucy was swept away by her older sister to have their hair done, and Edmund watched her being dragged off with a half-heartedly suppressed sigh.
A nudge in the ribs from his brother brought his attention to Peter. He glared at him. "What?"
Peter gave him a suspicious look. "Well, brother mine, I was wondering if there was something going on between you and Lu. You've been throwing each other glances as if there was something you wanted to talk about but couldn't."
"What makes you think that –"
He was interrupted by the door opening and Peridan coming in, leading a group of young people, most of whom Edmund didn't recognise. Several pairs of curious eyes stared at the two kings, standing in the middle of the otherwise empty throne room, clad in their most casual attire. Whispers rose among the guests, and Peridan became uncharacteristically red in the face.
"I beg your pardon, sires! I didn't know you were here... well, anyways, we can continue our tour somewhere else and come back later," he stammered, turning to shoo the curious guests out of the room, but Peter stopped him at once.
"No need to rush off, Peridan. Let us greet our guests."
Unprepared for meeting Medeha again already, it was now Edmund who shoved his brother hard in the ribs. "Peter, we're not... I mean, don't you think... it's not..." But he broke off, not really knowing what to say. He had meant to bring up the fact that they weren't clad properly, in their comfortable cotton shirts and loose fitting trousers, but that would only have made Peter more suspicious. Neither of them cared much about that, even if Susan kept telling them otherwise.
While a group of awed looking young nobles filed back into the room, Edmund found himself shifting his weight uncomfortably from foot to foot. Then he stopped. And stared.
Her eyes flickered upwards, widening as she realised whom she was looking at. And this time there was no mistaking who he really was, because daft old Peter was already holding a welcoming speech, introducing both kings to their guests.
There was no way out now. Soon enough, Peter started with the personal greeting of each guest, who had all lined up looking very excited, and it would have been highly impolite if Edmund had not followed that example.
As he approached Medeha, he felt his ears grow red and silently cursed Susan for having his hair cut so short it didn't hide them anymore. Only two more in the line – then he would have to face her. For loss of a better solution he finally decided to put on his widest smile.
After he had bowed to Medeha, he winked at her and said, "My lady, I believe we have already met."
He had never seen anybody's cheeks go as red as Medeha's did; she was utterly unable to hide how uncomfortable the situation was making her. Edmund's conscience pricked as he saw the confusion rise in her lovely eyes, and he was about to intervene when she curtsied and stammered, "My lord king, I had no idea... please... forgive me." She was close to tears.
Edmund winced. He would have slipped his arm about her, like the night before, and done his best to ease her discomfort. But with Peter, Peridan, and the rest of the nobles staring at them, all he could do was lay a gentle hand on her shoulder and whisper, "All is well. Worry not, Lady Medeha."
"But ... your Majesty ..."
Edmund, however, had already moved on to the next guest, and Medeha's words hung in the air uncomfortably. There was a palpable tension in the air now, and it ended only after Peridan had finally chased all the guests out of the room again. When the door closed behind them, Peter turned furious eyes on his brother.
"By the mane, Ed, what was that all about?" he exclaimed angrily.
"Not your business," said Edmund curtly, and turned to go. When he felt Peter's hand on his upper arm, trying to hold him back, he simply shrugged it off and ignored his brother. But the High King didn't take well to that. Peter followed him all the way as Edmund hurried through the halls, towards his private chambers.
It was lucky that once there, they ran into Susan. Edmund breathed out a heavy sigh of relief. Not even Peter would dare to wind up Susan today. And indeed, he didn't say anything about what had happened, but kept throwing his brother angry glances whenever their sister wasn't looking. Susan suggested that they all go and find Lucy as well, and then have a bite to eat. After that was done, the Gentle Queen chased them all into their chambers to get dressed for the feast.
While his personal satyr valet, Gregorius, was fussing over his outfit, Edmund couldn't help thinking of Medeha again, and the tears he had seen welling up in her eyes. She must have felt horribly embarrassed, and it made it worse that all the other guests had also witnessed the scene. Edmund felt very guilty – if only last night he had told her who he was!
He resolved to explain everything to her at the feast.