What Happened At Farford
Summary: Narnians are missing, and Peter and Edmund set out to find out what's going on. Little do they know they are heading straight into danger ...
Autor's Notes: Yay! Second new story posted today!
There's going to be a bit of adventure in this one; hope, you'll like it! :)
This is set in the Golden Age, but before the events told in the book The Horse and his Boy. Both Peter and Edmund are still in their teenage years, although a couple of years older than in my fic The King's Quest.
Disclaimer: The usual applies (check my profile for it)
Many, many thanks to Realismandromance for taking the time to edit this!
"Are you really sure you want to come?" asked Edmund, eyebrows raised so high that they disappeared into his too-long dark fringe. Hands on hips, concern written across his face, his stance strongly reminded Peter of Susan.
Alroy, the faun captain, and his men had just filed out of the room a moment ago. And although Peter had had to admit, while listening to them holding council with his brother in charge, that Edmund – despite just having turned sixteen – seemed to be in control of everything, the High King was reluctant to let the party go on the campaign without him. Not because he honestly thought that they would need him – it was much rather he who needed to go.
Two full months of being ill, spent under the watchful eyes of two worried younger sisters, was enough to make anybody need a change of scenery. So, when Peter had been declared healthy after a bad case of pneumonia, it hadn't taken him long to find out that a council was to be held concerning some recent troubles which had come up along Narnia's western border. Word had reached the castle of Cair Paravel of Narnians who had gone missing, most of whom had last been seen very close to the country's border.
It was a natural border, defined by high mountains which no Narnian had ever crossed. There were very few accessible paths leading into the mountains, and most of them were steep and difficult to pass. So far, Narnians had not seen any reason to try.
Having taken pity on his elder brother – who needed to escape their sisters' worried glances for a while – Edmund had agreed to let Peter take part in his council. However, getting the Just King to agree with having his brother accompany him and his party on the upcoming campaign would probably be a much harder task.
Peter took a moment to consider which tactic would serve him best, and decided it might just happen that Edmund would take pity on him yet again. After all, if anybody understood what it was like to have a worried Susan on their back, it was Peter's younger brother. On the other hand, of course, Peter could always play the High King card, but that would only earn him a hard time with Edmund. Hence, he chose the first tactic.
"Come on, Ed, you know I need to get out of here for a while – Susan's driving me mad!"
"Oh, come on!"
Edmund grinned at him. The little devil was quite obviously enjoying this. But who was Peter to blame him? After all, he knew that in the past, when it had been Edmund who had been Susan's object of concern and protectiveness, Peter had usually just laughed and told his brother to wait until it passed.
He briefly wondered if the other tactic might still be better. But no, being diplomatic would serve him best when it came to Edmund. He sighed.
"Look here, Ed, I know you've planned this out very well – and in any case, the Western Woods are your domain and I totally accept that you will be in command of this whole operation – but please, take me with you."
For a moment, Peter wondered if Edmund would make him drop to his knees, but then his brother's expression suddenly sobered, and Peter was seriously concerned until Edmund let out a sigh.
"Fine, come along if you must. But only as my advisor. You will not come in a military function – and you will avoid any danger like the plague."
Now, it was Peter's turn to be amused. "Little brother, since when have you become so protective of me?"
His brother snorted. "Since I've had to save your sorry life too many times after we became Kings. Besides, it's not just for your sake, but for my own as well, because if I don't bring you back in one piece, Susan will have my head."
Peter laughed heartily. "Probably," he agreed. Rather pleased with this outcome, he made himself more comfortable in his chair, picking up the map that was laid out on the table for planning the mission.
The sound of Edmund clearing his throat pointedly made Peter look up again.
"What are you waiting for? Go, pack. We're leaving at first dawn tomorrow."
Peter grinned and jumped to his feet, making it a point to demonstrate how full of energy he was. If truth be told, though, he had to admit to himself that it was a show he was putting on; he really wasn't quite in shape yet. But his brother needn't know.
Edmund was waiting by the door, one hand on the knob and the other on his hip. As Peter made to leave the room, he suddenly felt the urge to hug his brother, and so he threw his arm around Edmund's shoulder, pulling him close.
The younger king, accustomed to his elder brother's demonstrative affection, did not return the gesture, but bore it for at least half a minute longer than Peter expected him to. Edmund, under normal conditions, was not particularly fond of his siblings' regular and sometimes baseless need for open display of affection, but he endured them for a couple of minutes at least – sometimes even more, when it came to Lucy.
Peter took an extra moment to think whether he should also place a brotherly kiss on Edmund's cheek, but decided that he had tried his luck enough for one day. So instead, he let go, and even refrained from ruffling his brother's hair.
He had some packing to do, anyway.
As usual before starting a campaign that would take him away from his beloved home for a while, Edmund didn't sleep very well that night. After the six years he had been a king, one might think that he would have become used to this by now, but he still found himself anxious if a potential threat lay ahead. Unlike Peter, who lived and breathed adventure, to Edmund, this was simply part of his duty. He preferred the moment when the adventure lay behind him and he was back at the Cair, safe and sound, with one more story to tell.
What made things worse tonight was that he couldn't help wondering if Peter coming along so soon after his bout with pneumonia was really such a good idea. Susan, of course, had not approved. Lucy, as always, had put her faith into Peter knowing what he was doing – and of course into Aslan, who would find a way of telling them if they were about to make a mistake.
Edmund himself had, after thoroughly thinking it through, made the decision that he had better leave it up to his elder brother to know if he was ready or not. After all, Peter was nineteen – old enough, one should think. Besides, he had lots of experience with being on a campaign of this sort.
However, despite having faith in Peter's judgement, Edmund was brooding that night, which led to relentless tossing and turning; he slept fitfully for no more than an hour before spending another hour awake and brooding, only to fall back into another short sleep. Not being much of a morning person on any day, the restlessness at least helped him to get up and ready in time. But only just.
So, of course, once he was finally ready to mount Philip's back, he heard the unmistakable voice of the High King calling out to him, "I say, you're a little late, dear brother!"
One foot already in the stirrup, Edmund pondered for a while if he should send for Susan, letting her know that their older brother had skipped breakfast on the day of their leave – thereby making sure that Susan would find a way to keep him at the Cair.
"He's in excellent form this morning, isn't he?" chuckled Philip, with a joyous whinny that annoyed Edmund even more.
The young king let out a snort, then pushed himself upwards until he came to sit in the saddle and dug his heels into Philip's sides, none too gently. "Never mind him," he grumbled. He was not yet over his foul early morning mood, worsened by the fact that he himself had had to skip breakfast for the sake of a timely departure, and had slept so little that it was making him feel a bit dizzy.
As the hours passed by, however, his mood soon changed for the better, especially when he saw how much his brother was enjoying the ride. Having been confined to his chambers for weeks on end, Peter must be appreciating the fresh autumn air, still warm from the summer sun. He had practically missed the whole summer season, thanks to his prolonged illness.
Just how Peter had managed to catch pneumonia in the warmest season of the year was a mystery. Well, not quite, if truth be told – because anybody who knew him knew that he was always on the verge of overexerting himself and regularly even crossing that line.
Edmund could, of course, understand how that came to be. For a king, there was always work to do – always a threat to his kingdom to overcome, always a complicated diplomatic situation to sort out; in sum, there was always a battle to be fought, whether it be with words or with weapons. Edmund knew that from his own experiences, and he also knew quite well what overexertion felt like. It could make the strongest person ill if endured for too long.
In this particular case, it had been a series of events, starting with King Lune of Archenland sending word to Cair Paravel of an upcoming revolt in his country. A power-hungry, treacherous count had been eager to demonstrate his dissatisfaction with how the country was ruled, and he had had an impressive number of men who rallied around him. The king had seen no other way but to ask for the High King Peter of Narnia to send a party to his aid – a party which Peter had decided to command himself.
At the same time, a Calormene ambassador had announced his visit, and had insisted on a meeting with the High King himself. So, they had ended up meeting at Anvard in between planning and eventually fighting the battle against the Archenlander traitor. It had taken Peter almost a full day to convince the Calormene that he had to travel on to Cair Paravel to discuss his matters there, and that Peter's brother, King Edmund, had full sovereignty in handling all negotiations.
Thinking back, Edmund could very well have done without those negotiations, anyway – for nothing had come of them. The subject had been to expand Calormene slave trading areas to as far as the Lone Islands, which were part of Narnia. For the life of him, the Calormene ambassador had not understood that slavery in Narnia was not tolerated – not anymore, at least, since the power of the White Witch had been broken.
Although diplomacy was Edmund's strong suit, he had come to the point where he had simply seen no other way but to break off negotiations and send Orieus to accompany the Calormene all the way to the great desert which began just south of Archenland, ordering the General to serve as reinforcement for Peter afterwards – if needed.
A couple of days later, word had been sent back from Anvard that Peter had been badly wounded and had caught an infection. He had stayed in the care of King Lune's people for a bit, finally returning to Cair Paravel half recovered, and from then on, it had gone downhill. Even Lucy's cordial couldn't do much good – weakened by the infection as the High King was.
Now, he was finally up and about again.
It was a four-day ride from Cair Paravel to the point where the first disappearances had been recorded. Two young black dwarfs hadn't come back from a day's trip to the forest where they traded for food with Talking Beasts and other inhabitants of the Western Woods. They belonged to a clan of dwarfs who lived just east of the border, their mine leading deep into the mountains – way beyond the border, but underground. Until now, nobody had ever thought anything of it, because there had never been any people coming across the mountains from the west, either to make a claim on the land or to establish a diplomatic relation with Narnia.
What lay beyond those mountains, nobody knew.
Edmund knew that if the party took full advantage of the daylight and rode on into the evening, they could cut down the time to three and a half days. For the sake of his missing subjects, he was tempted to do so, although early in the evening, he noticed that his brother was looking worn out.
Peter's horse trotted along a couple of paces ahead of Philip, and Edmund couldn't help his stomach tightening with concern as he looked at his brother's leather-clad back. The High King wore a tunic that was made from fine, soft leather, but still robust and protective enough for as long as he chose not to wear full armour, which was too uncomfortable to travel in. Although the leather did not cling to his body and show off anything, Edmund knew of the too-sharp shoulder blades underneath it, two months of little appetite and battling with fevers had left the High King considerably thinner than he used to be. The muscle bulk of his chest and shoulders that Edmund used to envy him for had atrophied visibly, and he had an uncharacteristically frail look about him that the younger king found hard to bear.
With a soft dig in the sides, Edmund urged Philip to catch up with Peter's horse, Adel. Once he was next to his brother, he looked him over sceptically; Peter was pale and sweat gleamed on his forehead.
"How are you holding up?"
"Been better," Peter admitted. "But, I'm good to go for another hour or so."
Edmund shook his head. "If I bring you back sick again, I'll never hear the end of it from the girls." A gentle tug on the reins, and Philip came to a halt. "We're stopping here for the night!" he called out, deliberately ignoring Peter, who was trying to signal to him that stopping already on his account was unnecessary.
"Well, I don't mind," mumbled Philip, and he whinnied joyfully as Edmund hopped off his back.
Soon, everyone was busy setting up the camp, fetching water from a nearby creek and starting a fire. Edmund smiled to himself – Peter could complain all he wanted. This was the perfect place to spend the night.
Peter lay awake and listened, waiting for his brother's breathing to even out. As usual, the two kings shared a tent while on campaign. Although Edmund had never put it into words, Peter knew that this comforted his little brother as much as himself – if not even more. And, as usual while on a military mission, Peter was determined to stay awake until he heard the deep even breaths that told him that Edmund was finally resting peacefully.
"You don't have to wait for me to fall asleep, you know."
At the unexpected words, Peter rolled onto his side, propping his head up on his elbow and looking over, despite not seeing more than his brother's outline in the darkness. He knew that Edmund was likewise looking in his direction.
"I just want to make sure you're getting some rest."
Peter knew very well about the anxiety that lay behind his brother confident exterior. It had nothing to do with actual fear, though, at least not for himself. If anything, Edmund would fear for the life and the safety of his subjects, and partly for his faithful soldiers as well. And he felt the pressure of being responsible for them.
Over the past six years, Peter had watched his brother grow from a moody little boy into not only a trustworthy youth, but also a competent warrior and clever strategist. The High King had no doubt that his brother was up to the task that lay ahead, and he knew that Edmund had no doubts about it, either. But being in command of a mission was draining – for some reason, it had always been more draining for Edmund than for Peter. It didn't help that he had always had a tendency to brood. At night, there was a lot of time to think things through, which became highly inconvenient when on a mission. Of course, as the mission carried on, Edmund probably would get less chance for brooding, as he was likely to tire himself out. Once he reached a certain point of exhaustion, he would sleep much better, but now he was far from that point.
"I could have gone on for a little longer, Ed," Peter said in a low voice. "You'd be more tired now if we had. Consider this tomorrow, will you?"
He heard Edmund grumble something into his pillow, but it didn't pass as a reply. If anything, it was likely to be a command to shut up – a command that Peter reluctantly but submissively obeyed. He was quite familiar with his brother's moods, knowing well that poking and prodding would lead to nothing at all.
It took another long while until Peter finally heard the satisfying sound of deep even breaths coming from the other side of the tent, and with a smile to himself, he rolled over into a more comfortable sleeping position and soon fell into a deep, dreamless rest.
A/N: Let me know what you think ... :)