I know, I know. I'm supposed to be working on either King and Lionheart or Snow White and Black Heart. But if you are an author, you know how these plot bunnies are. One minute you're doing what you are supposed to do like a good author should and then suddenly, they're encroaching on your creative space and threatening violence unless you do as they please. Seriously, I just had to get this story out of my system before my brain implodes with ideas.
To anyone who is reading King and Lionheart, though—rest assured that CoffeeRanger and I are constantly brainstorming epic ideas for the story.
Speaking of my co-author and dearest friend, this story was inspired by her Hobbit masterpiece entitled Never Apart. I've said it a few times in my previous stories and I'll say it again, if you want quality Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, and Narnia stories, check out her profile and click away at the links of her stories. Trust me, if you end up liking this morbid little one-shot, you would find that the one that inspired it is a million times more epic and hauntingly beautiful.
CRIMSON AND GOLD
"I don't suppose we can get back for just a couple more minutes?" Edmund asked as he rummaged through the things inside his pack, his lighthearted tone cutting through the heavy air of melancholy that made breathing painful for his siblings. As one they swiveled their gazes towards their brother, their expressions a cross between mild annoyance (of course Edmund knew they couldn't just go back the way they came!) and sheer curiosity.
"I left my new torch in Narnia!" he exclaimed, the mirthful grin spreading across his face ruining the fretful tone he had been going for. Soon he wasn't the only one smiling. Susan and Lucy giggled, while Peter shook his head fondly as if to say, "Classic Edmund. Diffusing the tension once more with his wit." The mechanical double doors of the train closed, but instead of making the older siblings think of doors that had just been closed to them forever, it felt to them like a protective barrier—keeping the pain and bitterness out of the train as it sped away to their destination.
"I say, it isn't funny!" he said, succeeding at adopting a remotely grave expression this time. "Wait until Mum hears that I lost my birthday present."
"You know she isn't one to hold grudges against us, Ed," Peter reasoned, drawing Susan—who in turn threw one arm over Lucy's shoulders—against him as the train's movement caused the girls to wobble where they stood.
It was true. Their mum had been beside herself with joy the moment she had realized that her real son was back. Peter reckoned that she would be more worried that someone—probably one of Edmund's former "friends" who couldn't get over the fact that he was no longer a bully—had taken it from her youngest son out of spite. It wouldn't be an irrational concern, what with Edmund having lost one of every school supply he'd owned ever since school had begun. Peter had once offered to "teach the little monsters a lesson," but Edmund had adamantly refused, positing that it would only turn Peter himself into a bully. That had given Peter pause, for if there was anyone who knew what it was like to morph into the worst version of himself, it was Edmund.
"I suppose I could sell some of my detective novels and buy a decoy at—" Edmund paused, eyebrows knitting together as he fished out a curious thing inside his pack. His eyes widened. Peter, Susan, and Lucy gasped in unison.
"It's your golden chess p—" Lucy whined slightly as Susan's hand came to cover mouth.
"Hush, Lu." Susan turned to Edmund, her voice low and grave as she spoke to him. "Put it back inside your pack, Edmund. Don't take it out until we get home."
"I can't believe it!" Peter's muted tone couldn't mask the excitement welling in his heart. "You're a genius, Ed! Dad might not have to work another day of his life!"
"I'd completely forgotten about it," Edmund responded shakily, scarcely able to believe their fortune himself. "Aslan must have meant for us to have it."
"Ffank Afwanh!" Lucy exclaimed, her thanksgiving muffled by the hand still clamped against her mouth. Susan removed her hand with an apology and a disbelieving laugh. She, too, was overjoyed with the prospect of spending every day with their father.
"Thank Aslan," Lucy repeated lowly so only her siblings could hear, the smile on her face infinitely brighter than the shafts of sunlight that filtered lazily into the windows as the train crawled out of the darkness of the tunnel.
The last time Edmund had felt this euphoric in school, he had been in Narnia. He and Peter had wielded swords, double swords, bows and arrows, crossbows, spears, javelins, and other instruments of warfare just as much they had wielded feather quills – which of course catered to the fantasies of boys who had once lived in war-torn England – and had secretly hoped they could do more than watch as air raids and mass murders raged on.
There had been hunting classes, too, which had filled their heads (even Susan's) with dreams of capturing the mythical White Stag believed to be capable of changing the captor's destiny by granting any wish. There had also been Cosmology, Astronomy, Heraldry, Versification, Elocution, History, Physics, Arithmetic, Cartography, Art, Music, Dance (Edmund's least favourite), and of course, Law (Edmund's absolute favourite).
At present, Edmund was forced to sit through Algebra—the level of which a whole decade behind his arithmetic capabilities—but he didn't mind the silliness one bit. Every five minutes or so, his thoughts would wander to the magical content of his pack—a golden chessman shaped like a Centaur General, with rubies for eyes and flakes of diamond for armour. In his mind, he made mental calculations of how much they would make from selling it. Meanwhile, all the boys around him continued their bloody quest of finding the ever-elusive Xs and Ys.
Within the same minute, Edmund secured an estimate of the chessman's monetary value and scribbled answers on his math booklet, a smile dancing on his lips even as his classmates frowned and rolled their eyes at the "self-assured prig."
Dad will be able to retire from the military, Mum will be able to buy herself new clothes, shoes, and hats, Peter will be able to go to University, Susan will be able to study fashion in America, and Lucy and I, well, we won't have to live under the Scrubbs' roof anymore.
If the boy king had known that he would attract his former friends' ire (more so than usual, at least) with his sunny disposition, he would have done his daydreaming elsewhere. Furthermore, if he had known that one of the bitter chaps would slip a rusty pocket knife in his trousers to taunt him after classes, he would have taken his head out of the Narnian cloud and made use of the warfare lessons he had learned from the Land.
But as the Great Lion had told Lucy not too long ago, no one would ever truly know what could have been, only what was.
Whatever joy Peter had felt at the railway station this morning, it had gone out the classroom window. His heart weighed heavily in his chest, and his breathing felt like it had when a Northern Giant had swung a club directly to his abdomen. His thoughts would drift to his younger brother every five minutes, all the while cursing himself for not offering to keep the chess piece for him.
It was incredibly daft, the more he thought of it, because the last time Edmund had owned a fancy fountain pen, he had made his glee painfully obvious to everyone who had eyes—including the bullies who used to be his friends. By the end of that day, his brother had three nasty bruises and an empty pen case.
That was why when he saw Edmund exit out of the train's double doors, face free of bruises and cuts, skinny arms wrapped protectively around his pack, and with a spring to his steps as he made his way to where Peter waited, the older boy wanted nothing more than to envelop the younger one in his arms—conservative English bystanders be damned.
A smile was tugging at the corners of his lips when he saw four boys—two of which wore uniforms similar to the style of Edmund's, while the other pair wore ones similar to his—sauntering menacingly behind the unsuspecting boy.
Peter recognized the two boys with uniforms like him right away – the dirty-blond one had thrown the first punch to his face this morning, while the brown-haired one had haughtily demanded for an apology prior to the physical act. The Magnificent King still did not feel like apologizing to the blokes, but if it saved Edmund from getting caught in another crossfire, it would be well worth it in Peter's book.
He engulfed the space between him and Edmund in a couple short strides, but his brother's intimidating shadows and the enemies he had made earlier were quick to encroach on their personal space. Idly, Peter wondered if the effect of the Narnian air was already wearing off Edmund. How could the boy miss their unsubtle manner of tailing him? When Edmund's hand went straight inside his pack, he was slapped with the reason why.
Peter swatted Edmund's hand and forced him to stand behind him; Edmund barely had time to bristle at Peter as four ugly faces with even uglier smirks made their presence known.
"I say, gentlemen, why don't we settle this once and for all? I apologize for what happened here this morning, so does my younger brother." Peter elbowed Edmund on the ribs, coaxing him to obey.
"What?" Edmund spat, looking dumbfounded. To Peter's dismay, Edmund merely attempted to level justice upon the clearly unchivalrous, unrefined lot. "Why should you apologize to them, My Lor—my brother? Had they not thrown the first punch?(1)"
The dirty-blond boy got in Peter's face and looked him up and down. Peter stood, undeterred, under the intense scrutiny. To his surprise, the schoolboy's expression suddenly changed into some semblance of humility and grace.
And then he spat at the High King's face, the saliva sliding disgustingly down Peter's chin.
The Just King saw red. Before Peter could even wipe the offensive fluid off, Edmund's fists were bludgeoning the oppressor's jaws. It didn't take long for the other three to join in the brawl. Despite himself, Peter pondered Aslan's ominous words to Lucy ("Things don't happen the same way twice, dear one") as he tried, and failed, to keep his brother from utterly destroying the boy's features. When two bodies rammed into him and unleashed kicks and punches onto his back and abdomen, Peter was convinced that he and his siblings—as had always been the case, it seemed—were exceptions to the rule. Enraged by the sound of Edmund's pained grunt and fresh out of two battles that would go down in both Narnian and Telmarine history, Peter threw punches and kicks of his own – all perfectly aimed and meant to finish the fight in seconds.
"Oliver, look at this!" came a breathless exclamation from one of Edmund's classmates. Peter's blood froze in his veins as realization dawned on him at once. The boy, Oliver, took the golden chess piece from his companion's grasp. Edmund, having realized that he had stupidly discarded his pack when he had jumped to his brother's defense, sprang back to his feet faster than a Jack-in-a-box and swiped at Oliver's hand.
"Give it back, Oliver, or I swear you wouldn't live to regret it!" Edmund threatened, which sent his classmates howling like hyenas. Even though he had made lasting damage to the dirty-blond boy's face, he still stood a few inches shorter than the two bullies.
"Edmund!" Peter shouted out in warning. Something deep within told him he needed to warn Edmund about something. He made to leap over the older schoolboys' unconscious forms, only to trip as the brown-haired boy, apparently feigning sleep, grabbed both of his legs. There was the familiar sound of his skull meeting ground as Peter fell gracelessly to the floor.
Before darkness could eat away at his vision, he thought he saw a flash of silver, followed by a sound he had heard countless of times as he fought back-to-back with his Royal Brother and Right Hand in the fields of the bloodiest battles.
Barely two minutes had passed before Peter regained consciousness, but it was enough for his enemies and the bullies from Edmund's class to flee from the scene. And if one of them clutched Edmund's chessman in his hand, it had nothing to do with actual desire for wealth but everything with the intent to run as fast as his feet could carry him, oblivious to everything else he was doing—such as carrying an entire family's fortune with one hand, or a strong piece of evidence that would implicate him to the attack on The Just King's life in High King Peter's court. But he wasn't in Narnia.
Neither were Peter and Edmund.
Edmund laid, writhing and gasping, on the filthy floor of the railway station. Crimson bloomed bright against his white uniform. There was a wildness to his eyes, a tell-tale sign of shock taking over his body, and he made sounds that drove daggers of memories straight into Peter's brain.
Betrayal. Rescue. Battle. Jadis. Broken wand. Redemption. Falling. Lucy. Death. Resurrection. Healing. Kings. Queens. Sisters. Brother.
Peter's bruised and battered body all but forgot about the concussion he had just sustained from his fall. He stood, ran towards his fallen brother, and crashed to his knees to pick him up.
"Ed." He pressed one hand to the wound. Needlessly, his brain told him that it wasn't worse than all the other wounds Edmund had sustained in previous battles. And with just one drop of Lucy's healing cordial…
"You're—you're going to be all right, Ed. It's—It's no worse… no worse than any you had sustained in battles past… brother mine. R-remember… Remember that one you had during a campaign in Ettinsmoor? That was… That was worse. Much worse, Ed. A giant rammed a spiked club to your chest for Lion's sake! Ed— You just… just hold on, Edmund. Lucy's coming—"
Edmund laughed. A short, pained laugh punctuated by a cough. Blood spilled from his mouth, staining his teeth a mesmerizing shade of blackish red. "Ss-seriously… Pete? I'm the one… the one… dying… here. I'm… I'm not the one… who should be able to… thi-think."
Peter gasped, the truth piercing his heart as brutally as the schoolboy's pocket knife had impaled his brother's side. The wound grew ever nastier and blood slipped through his fingers as the minutes dragged on, as the clusters of people he had not noticed before grew more frantic, and as men in uniform tried to take Edmund from his shaking arms. He snarled at them, half-mad as he was with pain and despair. They let him hold his brother, but pressed a thick wad of cloth soaked in an atrocious-smelling chemical in his hand all the same.
"Press it on the wound, son. Help will come. I promise. You're doing great, lad. Just keep at it. Paramedics are on their way." More of the same promises were spoken gently to Peter as Edmund whimpered and shuddered from the sting of the cloth pressed against his wound.
Edmund gasped, his shivers coming fewer and farther in between with his laboured breaths.
His eyes slipped closed. Peter shook him, so harshly one of the men in uniform growled his disapproval and tried to take Edmund from him once more.
"Edmund… Brother mine… Don't leave me… Please."
Edmund's eyes popped open. His blood-stained lips curled into the faintest smile Peter had ever seen him wear. He lifted one shaking hand and pressed it on Peter's ghostly-white cheek.
Peter whimpered. With what could be his final breaths, Edmund wanted, needed, Peter to bring their father to his side. But he could not do it. He, Peter Pevensie, High King of Narnia, Lord of Cair Paravel, Emperor of the Lone Islands, Knight of the Most Noble Order of the Lion. He, restorer of faith and bringer of peace across nations. Peter, who had sworn to protect his people, and his royal siblings under him, with his very life. Peter Pevensie, Edmund Pevensie's older brother.
Edmund's hand left Peter's cheek to drop lifelessly to the ground. Peter let his head drop, pressing his forehead against Edmund cold, clammy ones as he squeezed his eyes shut from the incapacitating pain in his heart.
It was over.
"… My… My Lord… My King… My Brother... My… Fa-Father… Pete… Peter."
Peter opened his eyes. He smiled.
Edmund smiled... and closed his eyes.
A whisper of a beloved name.
A shake that rattled both of their bones.
Edmund's eyes remained closed.
When Susan and Lucy arrived to where their older brother sat weeping, their younger brother—who just this morning had been making light of his lost electric torch—lying lifeless against the other's chest, Lucy's hand fluttered to her belt.
Only to realize that what she was reaching for… it was lost, like Edmund's birthday present.
Susan left Lucy's side to kneel beside their brothers, her cries echoing across the station… across a dimension they once ruled as revered kings and queens.
Lucy stayed where she stood, her heart asking…
(1) As much as I respect Andrew Adamson's version of a brooding, arrogant Peter in the Prince Caspian film, I honestly don't buy the idea that Peter threw the first punch, hence the deviation in this story.
Love it? HATE it (I'm pretty sure it's the latter, honestly)? Kindly let me know in the reviews/send me a PM! And I'm awfully sorry about how this story turned out. The plot bunnies made me do it!
I must say, though, the idea of exploring Lucy's wavering faith due to how things turned out here sounds like a fun challenge to take on. We've seen it done plenty of times before with Susan, but I don't think I've seen a story that revolves around the notion that Lucy is fallible, too, just like her older siblings. *IF* (because I suck at commitment) I end up writing a sequel to this story, would you guys be interested in it? Please let me know.
Thank you so much for reading! I hope to see you guys in the next chapter of King and Lionheart! God bless you all the days of your lives. Amen.
*** The Chronicles of Narnia belongs to C.S. Lewis and the companies that purchased the rights to turn the books into films/TV, animated , and radio series ***