Summary: Being a king, Peter had learned, had little to do with having everything your way and everything to do with being responsible for your subjects
Author's Notes: This was written months ago ... Or rather half-way written. I recently finished it and decided to give a go here. Looking forward to a comment or two from your side :)
It had it looked over by awilliamsbbc.98 – many many thanks!
The story is set just a few weeks before my short fic Bright Lights ... but if you read that you would probably have guessed that anyway :)
Barely nine-year-old Lucy was staring at him, her eyes wide, while Mr Tumnus merely shook his head. "There is really no other word for it, King Peter. You fainted. That's what happened. Simple as that."
Peter sat on his bed, scowling. His hands had gripped the covers, knuckles white, and he was still barely able to keep them from shaking. Mr. Tumnus was right, he knew that, but that didn't mean he was going to admit it. Not in front of his frantic little sister, anyway.
"Are you ill, Peter?" asked Lucy, her small hand reaching for his. It was too tiny to hold all his fingers at once and so she settled for the two smallest fingers, gripping them tightly.
"No," said Peter firmly.
"Then why did you faint?"
He blew out a frustrated breath. Yes, good question. How did this happen?
It wasn't too much of a mystery, if he was honest to himself. The past weeks had been trying – in fact, so had the whole span of several months since he and his siblings had stumbled through that wondrous wardrobe and into the kingdom there were now expected to rule and to protect. But the past weeks had really worn him down. Made him wonder if this was really what he wanted. Being a king.
Oh Aslan, you never told us how hard it would be ...
Tumnus chose this moment to speak up again, interrupting Peter's thoughts. He lay a comforting hand on Lucy's shoulder, while the High King himself caught only a stern look. "You should take better care of yourself, King Peter," he urged.
They weren't words Peter hadn't heard before. And every time he had heard them, he had certainly planned to follow. But how, when, all things considered, he was already trying his best? He gave Tumnus a shrug and a questioning look.
The faun frowned deeply. "It's quite simple actually," he announced, "you could, for instance, start with eating enough."
"I do," Peter protested at once.
"Hermus says you don't," exclaimed Lucy, causing her big brother to cringe slightly. Wearily, he ran a hand over his face (not the hand Lucy was holding on to; her touch was way too comforting) while she babbled on, not noticing how uncomfortable her words made him feel, "I heard him say that you've gotten thinner since the last time he took your measurements for a new tunic."
Tumnus crossed his arms and raised his eyebrows at that; his hoof was tapping the floor lightly. He didn't say anything, though.
Didn't have to.
"To whom did Hermus say it?" asked Peter in a rather small voice, hoping the answer wasn't Susan. His oldest sister so far hadn't mentioned anything, and Peter thought she was maybe distracted; her mothering attention focused mainly on their two youngest siblings these days. But it would be just like Hermus to go and spill it all to her.
"Me," said Tumnus. "And Naideera."
Blast! The healer! This was just as bad. Out of the corners of his eyes Peter glanced at the faun "Mr. Tumnus, you haven't spoken to our dear Queen Susan about it, have you?"
"No, not yet. But I might just drop a hint to her if –"
Peter huffed and interrupted the faun, saying, "how can it be? I eat. Plenty actually."
"Still not enough, though," said Tumnus.
Peter gave him a pleading look and the stern features softened a bit. "Look here, you're a youth, aren't you? You only just turned fourteen, and you've been growing like a giant offspring over the past months. On top of that you spent half the day with that merciless centaur general, training excessively. Every day, I might add. I'm not saying I'm an expert when it comes to the physiology of a Son of Adam, but I do have eyes. And what they see tells me that your body needs more energy than you are currently offering it. Hence the fainting."
"But how come this is happening to me?" said Peter honestly confused. "I'm not used to this. I never had such problems. Ask Queen Susan, if you don't believe me."
At that Tumnus nodded. "Maybe in the past you haven't. That doesn't solve the problem now, does it?"
"I suppose not."
For a moment there was a blissful silence. A relief, Peter thought; silence meant not being scolded. It ended all too soon; not surprisingly though, for his little sister had never enjoyed silence.
"Ed says you've been sleeping very little, too," she blurted out.
Now this was probably news to Tumnus, at least if the look on his face was anything to go by.
It was true, nevertheless; Peter had indeed been unusually restless in the past days, but why did Edmund have to go and tell everybody? A bitter smile crossed Peter's lips, thinking that the little devil had probably just been trying to avert attention from himself.
It was high time that he moved back to his own room to sleep. The two newly-crowned kings had shared a room for a couple of months now, while trying to get accustomed to the castle, but this matter should have been settled by now.
Restlessness was something Peter was unaccustomed to. Usually he slept the moment his head touched the pillow – it had always been that way. But lately – on top of not being able to hit the bed before midnight on a regular basis if he wanted to get all his duties seen to – once he did go to sleep, he still didn't find much rest.
Of course, it is no wonder, he thought, reminding himself of all the things he had to consider and decide and see to. It was bound to be keeping his mind busy.
And then there was this last decision he had had to make; it seemed like the hardest yet.
It was all about a black dwarf. A traitor.
Three times now he had been shown mercy by the kings and queens, when laws, as written over a hundred years ago, warranted banishment from Narnian grounds at the very least. Even a fourth time Peter had wanted to grant him mercy. But Edmund had said no. They had caught him four times, trying to gather the old army of the White Witch. The fourth at the expense of three faithful Narnian soldiers' and one innocent citizen's life.
"It wouldn't be just," Edmund had said, "to let him go a fourth time. Not when the most recent Narnian law asks for punishment. I say we banish him with no way to return. He shall be sent north to where the giants live."
Peter had known his brother's judgment was right and had yet still been reluctant to stick to it.
"I'll escort him myself, if you want me to," Edmund had offered, seeing Peter's face as he thought about it, and Peter had pictured his eleven-year-old brother, sitting atop Philip's back, watching the treacherous dwarf cross the northern border, with giants hovering about –
No way – the northern border was no place for an eleven year old to be. Not even the king of Narnia. Peter wasn't going to let it happen. Edmund would suffer from having made the decision. That would be enough for him to deal with.
So had been decided that the High King himself would be the one to travel north and see to it that the sentence was fulfilled. He hated the mere thought of it but it couldn't be helped.
Being a king, Peter had learned, had little to do with having everything your way (as one might think) and everything to do with being responsible for your subjects. And that included making hard decisions for the sake of those who were innocent, and to punish those who were guilty and dangerous.
"We shall leave you to yourself for a little while," said Tumnus, after another long moment of silence. Peter looked down to where Lucy's hand was still linked with his and then back at the faun.
"Would anybody mind if Lucy stays here with me a little while longer?" he asked in a soft voice.
"Of course not," exclaimed his little sister at once – Aslan bless her.
Tumnus seemed not too happy about the idea. But he didn't say anything but, "just make sure you get some rest, King Peter. And I'll see to it that your evening meal will be brought to your chambers as well." His eyes became hard. "Make sure you clean your plate."
And then he scuttled out the door, leaving the two siblings to themselves. As soon as he was out, Peter detached his hand gently from Lucy's and stood up from his bed to walk to his dressing closet. A mighty stack of books lay on it. Peter reached for the one on the very top; a thick tome, bearing the title Narnian Law.
His thoughts returned to the task that lay ahead; sending a dwarf into the wild northern lands, inhabited by gruesome giants. He could very well just kill the dwarf himself, the outcome would not be any different.
Of course, Peter, High King of Narnia, had killed before – had had to, despite his young age of only fourteen. But it had been in battle, one could therefore call it self-defense. Peter, at least, had decided to call it that. And it had felt different – not good, but different to what was going to happen with the dwarf.
"Peter ..." Lucy's urgent voice brought him back to the present. "You're supposed to be resting."
Smiling, he sat back down next to her. "I know, sweetheart," he said. "And I will. Soon." He opened the book and was about to start reading, when Lucy, eyes fierce, mouth tight, ripped it from his hands.
"No!" she exclaimed, tugging at his doublet. "Get comfortable and rest now. Besides, you have already read all of what's in the book that you might need for your journey."
Peter sighed, wrapping his arm around her tiny shoulders. She was so small – if by sending the treacherous dwarf into exile he could add to her safety, he would do it any time, no matter what it might do to him. "I'm okay, Lu, I just need to make sure I'm doing everything right. I just couldn't bear the thought that I might be making a mistake. That the decision we made might yet not be justified."
Lucy looked at him, even more worried than before. "You're the High King, Peter, you could just decide to take back the sentence if you want to, can't you?"
He shook his head. "No, Lucy. I can't just go and overrule Edmund's judgement any time I feel like it. Not when he is quite right in his decision, anyway. Which is what I am currently trying to confirm."
"He's not the one who who signed the verdict. You did, Peter."
"True, but I know that he would have done it if I had asked him to. And he is the one who worked well into the night for a month to get this book read completely. His judgement is likely to be one hundred percent correct."
"So it cannot be helped then?" There were tears in Lucy's eyes.
"No, I don't suppose so."
Letting out a deep breath of sympathy, Lucy reached for his free hand once more. "Oh Peter, I wish we wouldn't have to do this."
So did he.
Oh, Aslan - those are the things you haven't told us about ...