This is for my American friends and readers who are celebrating Thanksgiving today. Happy Thanksgiving and I hope you enjoy this Narnian twist.
Peter looked down over the great feasting hall at Cair Paravel with no little trepidation. As midnight struck every eye was fixed on him and he wished desperately it did not fall to him as High King to deliver the toast. He stood, hands shaking, and cleared his throat nervously. Even after a year of ruling it was terrifying to realise everyone was waiting on his words.
"My good Narnians," his voice caught for a moment, the carefully planned words escaping his memory. He had meant to speak of victory, of hope, and of joy, but the words seemed terribly trite when he was faced with his subjects, his soldiers, and the families of those who had fallen at Beruna, exactly one year previously.
Aslan, give me wisdom, he pleaded silently-hyper aware that Susan was watching him expectantly, that Lucy was smiling in encouragement, and Edmund was studiously avoiding looking at anything in particular. They were depending on his ability to say the right words, words that would reassure, reaffirm, and further cement a tradition of light and hope.
Heavier even than the gazes of his siblings were the gazes of his subjects. They looked to him for leadership, and looked for wisdom in his words. They deserved so much more than he felt he could give.
"My good Narnians, friends, loyal soldiers, and family," he began again, thinking frantically. "This is a day of joy, but also one of sorrow." Beside him Susan tensed and clenched her hands into fists in the fabric of her gown. He could almost hear her crackling irritation.
"They need to remember Beruna as a day that bought Narnia's freedom; don't remind them of the price, Peter," that had been Susan's counsel, and despite his attempts to heed her counsel more often he could not quite bring himself to do so in this instance.
"Beruna was the day that brought freedom to Narnia, but we have not forgotten how dearly bought that freedom is. We suffered losses that day-friends and family who gave their lives that we might live. They will not be forgotten, even in our rejoicing. It is by the grace of Aslan and by their sacrifices that I stand here before you today, on this day of thanks, and also of remembrance. It is these things we must guard in our memories and for these things that we give thanks; for friends, for family, for those who cannot be with us, for Narnia, and for Aslan!"
For a dreadful moment there was silence and Peter felt rather foolish. He hadn't said what Susan had wanted him to, and somehow had fallen short of conveying what he meant as well. Then a low roar began at the back of the room, growing louder and more joyous as it swept through the room in a crashing wave of sound. "For Narnia, and for Aslan! Long live the High King! Long live the Kings and Queens! LONG LIVE ASLAN!"
Peter glanced over at Susan in time to see her nod approvingly with tears glimmering in her eyes. Lucy threw her arms around his neck with a smile. "That was perfect Peter!" she exclaimed happily as he returned her embrace-lifting her slippered feet from the floor as he spun her in a circle. She giggled, straightened the silver circlet that encircled her hair as he set her down and turned to tackle Susan in an equally exuberant embrace. Edmund was gravely silent, but Peter saw the slight smile as he raised his glass.
For these things I give thanks, Peter added silently. For my family; for my gentle sister and her patience with me, for Lucy and her joy, for Edmund being restored to us; for my country and my family, and for Your Grace in granting me these blessings, Aslan.
In the years that followed, the anniversary of Beruna would always be a day of thanks, but Peter would never forget the price that had been paid for freedom. And, even after the Four vanished, Narnia would always remember the respect their High King showed for the sacrifices made.