Tapestry Unwoven

Peter had always been an old child.

He couldn't remember before Susan and Edmund and Lucy were born; he couldn't remember a time when his protective instinct had not come naturally. He had always been more wary for them then for himself, analyzing dangers in terms of harm to them.

And so he had grown up very quickly.

He was the English schoolboy whose race becomes fewer and fewer, the boy that had friends who would follow him to the death because of his kindness and honor. He would never let someone take the blame for him, instead owning up with an integrity that made the punishment always less severe and bitter. He was a young prince who unknowingly bound subjects to his loyalty with his unassuming and unknowing marks of distinction.

Others would say that about him, but he would never dream of considering himself that way.

It began with an old country house and a sweet little sister and a dusty cupboard, but it would hardly seem surprising. Peter was always meant to be a prince, or a King.

When he was plunged into a new world and suddenly the task fell on him to do much more than keep his family together, he did both. He was a grave child with grey steady eyes and brown hair that in one spot on the back of his head always sprang up in a tuft, and when he took the sword into his hand he was not a boy with a plaything.

When Susan gripped her quiver of arrows it was too heavy for her for a moment and she gasped and nearly dropped it until the weight became familiar. She looked at her brother and said breathlessly, incredulously, "How can you handle that heavy thing?"

He slipped the sword into its sheath with a fluid motion and said "Your quiver has got a lot of gilt on it, Sue. The sword isn't nearly as ornate."

He always knew what to say but he always meant it too.

He had to confess that he had a soft spot for Lucy. It wasn't that he treated her better, but when he had been led into the sitting room after Mother had been sick and had seen the little heap of soft eyes and a sweet smile even then, his brave heart had been overcome. And when she had been older she had been the one who would notice when his resolve sometimes wavered, and she would come sit with him in his quiet corner and hug him with her small chubby arms.

Sent away to that country house, and watching as things went awry, he tried to stop them. Walking into a wardrobe and a snow-covered world and he never thought of how long it might be in there. But it was an adventure and when Lucy had such distress for her Mr. Tumnus he didn't know what to do rather than go. He thought he lacked Lucy's compassion, but his was only shown in a different way.

There was Edmund, and no matter what he had done through his misguided ways Peter loved him still, loved him even as he told him that he was insufferable. He felt guilty, wondering if Edmund knew that the bonds of brotherhood could not be broken by that. Edmund knew, but still Peter wondered.

Peter would have no qualms in dying for Edmund, it had crossed his mind when the White Witch had stood there and demanded a life for Edmund's. He thought of raising his hand and going forward, and he very nearly did, had it not been for Lucy. Lucy, who perhaps by the most unaware movement of the form, or hardening of the eyes, saw something that scared her. She had put her hand on his arm and looked up at him and he had known what it was she was saying. She knew they should have faith in Aslan. But Peter had only wanted to save him the trouble.

If one could have been there at Cair Paravel, that day, one would have seen Peter, standing in robes that were not too big for him despite their size because he grew to meet them, with a circlet on his head and none of the rush of power, evident in so many rulers, running through his eyes. He would have been a figure calm and solemn, aware somehow of the weight of the moment. In that very glance one would be willing to follow him to death. He was the sort of King that people dream of, that ballads are sung for, a King Arthur of Narnia, forever filled with that humble leadership.

And so it was not too hard for him, this boy named Peter, already so wise for his years, to rule a country. And when he lived a lifetime in that strange country filled with dryads and dwarves, he did it in the way that seems impossible for us in our lives with crooked politicians. In his reign the world seemed tempered; it had something of each of the siblings in its nature - there was the bliss and sunny days that were reflected in the laughter of Queen Lucy, a harmony that resided also in the gentle smile of Queen Susan, and acceptance and love passed from all citizens as King Edmund would have wanted. And above all there was rightness to the land that was the form of the High King Peter looking out at the horizon from the castle.


Her name was Arrys.

They never mentioned it, in the histories, but to him it was still sharp every passing day.

He had met her at a feast, one of those many celebrations. He refused, even in hindsight, to say that the moment he saw her amidst the crowd of people he felt something change within him; he knew that it would be an untruth. He had seen her the way he saw all of the graceful ladies who came to the court and tried to charm him and send his level head over his heels. It never worked, but he was still always respectful. They left still expecting more.

The years had passed, he was of a marriageable age. He was no longer the serious boy standing by the cliff. He had matured even more, grown up as it were. He was in adulthood, the flowering of his life having been nurtured by Narnia.

And so when he had seen her standing by the archway in a dress that could have been plucked from the midnight sky, stars and all, he did not think too much of it. He had seen dresses of pure sunlight, moonlight and water too.

And when he walked up to her to speak to her, as he did to all, it was not because she was special or he felt already that she deserved to be singled out. He went over to merely say hello, and make her feel welcome as he did unconsciously and without effort. He never had to force himself.

But it was not out of the goodness of his heart that he sat and talked to her on the bench by the apple orchard for two hours, nor that he called on her again and again, without his royal chariot and arriving merely by foot. He thought the royal trimmings would cheapen it somehow.

She never told him if she was a Daughter of Eve, or another creature bound to nature by birth. He never really wondered. To him she was a person all herself, regardless of where from.

With the first words he had spoken to her he had noticed that she did not look at him with the expectancy that most women did. There was no bewilderment when the hollow words of flattery did not come. Peter was never good with empty expressions.

She hadn't said anything spectacular at first. There were the usual formalities, nothing that he quoted for years afterwards. The second thing he had noticed was that her eyes were the same color as his, only lighter, as if light permeated them from within.

She spoke of little things: her family, his family. She spoke of her old life in the country with beauty and eloquence, and he thought that he could feel the warm breezes; so he asked her if she would like to see the apple orchard, even if the trees were still only of middling height.

He hadn't known he was going to ask this until the words flowed out so easily. She accepted, and so as dusk faded into night and the rim of the sky was a dusty rim of shadowed radiance, he led her to the bench that lay between two May trees of great stature. It had been May then, this he could never forget - May that is almost June, and the buds of the May trees had let forth their sweet virginal clouds of white blossoms, unfolding like tender stars.

They had spoke some more, both of them more and more earnestly as they no longer felt the need to hold a wall of caution and discretion between them. There had been words on Aslan, and he found that though she had never seen him, she held the same reverence within her heart as he did. When they mentioned him one could let the imagination believe that the orchard became faintly tinged with warmth.

To this day he cannot remember it word for word. He does in his dreams, where he lives it over again, but in the waking world he finds that to recite it verbatim is impossible. The words were not important anyway.

Lucy had known as soon as he had come back inside the hall, to find that most of the guests were gone. Arrys had found her escort and left with him, not so that he could not see her go. Lucy had turned to him with her eyes as frank and caring as they always had been and always would, and said, "I'm so happy for you, Peter," and then smothered him in a wordless hug. She almost knew before he did, knew that they would grow old together.


When they were married it was in the apple orchard. She had worn a veil of sea froth over her ash brown hair. Two pairs of grey eyes had locked.


That day Arrys had been sick. Sick, because she expected their first child. Peter had never wished for anything more.

They had gone out hunting, the four of them, Peter in a haze of happiness. He did not dwell on the fact that scholars all over the realm wrote more accounts daily of this Golden Age of Narnia, nor did he silently congratulate himself. Arrys had a child.

He hardly remembered now where he came from. It didn't matter all that much, because the most important parts of his life had happened here. There was a White Stag, but it didn't matter what it was. They were hunting that elusive bit of life that could be only a legend.

And Lucy had seen a strange tree, something metal and hard and unlike in every way from the flowing grace in form that were the trees of Narnia.

Peter had suddenly felt a foreboding, or as close to a foreboding as his sense would let him have. He suddenly felt desperately that they must not explore that strange pillar of iron.

But Lucy was intrigued, and looked at it with wondering eyes, and when she said excitedly (for she never did lose that aspect) that they must go on and explore some more, just like old times, he pushed it aside. They were brave men and women, had won battles and wars and made peace. He agreed because he did not want the light in her eyes to go out. He was interested too, of course. No curiosity could have resisted.

When they saw the distant light it was already too late, because now they were drawn inexorably towards something that was their fate, even though they had all forgotten it.

And when they had flown through that wardrobe door it was as if the work of years had suddenly been undone, and they were children again. It was so, so strange. They suddenly remembered everything that the slow tide of years had lapped away.

But there was nothing they forgot.

They had lived a lifetime and come back and realized that they were to live another lifetime, only differently this time. They were inside the bodies of children when their minds were so far beyond that. It was pleasant, for a while, to be able to live the idyllic life, but part of that idyllic life is the mindset itself, and that had been lost.

When Peter fully understood what had happened he had ran back to the wardrobe, and Susan and Edmund and Lucy had looked gravely after him. They could hear muffled thumps and another wretched sound that none of them would ever mention again, and when Peter came back out he had tracks on a face that was now round like a boy's. He looked at his siblings, all of them shrunk now from gallant kings and queens to the children they had been so long ago, still slightly rounded and bony in places, faces without the shape that they would take years from now.

It was the only time they saw him acknowledge what he had lost.

He tried to let the mentality of being a man slip away from him so that he could become again the boy he was. It never worked, and he stopped trying.

It was a strange fate, to have to live life all over again, especially when one would much rather have the life one had to leave behind. The years had been reversed in a strange hiccup of time, and now it was playing itself over again with the unwilling participants forced to act again upon a stage beyond reason.

Peter went through it all again. No one really noticed the change, he was only a bit more grave and solemn, and a little more silent. When he was alone he would take from a box under his bed a chip of wood. He had taken it from the back of the wardrobe before they had had to leave the Professor's house, something that he had not felt was wrong. He had done it with his pocketknife, something he found strange and childish to his hands after the crafted dirks of Narnia.

When he held it he hoped to feel something. He hoped to be able to somehow be taken away, back to the place where she was. He had listened to the Professor insisting that they could not return through that pathway, trying not to let anything show. But when he had looked back the Professor had been looking at him still, watching him with eyes that held mountains of pity. Lucy had told him they had spent a lifetime - the Professor knew what a lifetime entailed.

Peter did not know the visit, made to a very dear friend of the Professor's. He could not know how the graceful old lady named Polly shed tears for this man among men still held within a brave boy's body.

He wished he could have something besides this chip of wood, which had once had ornate carvings on it but which had been worn smooth by the caresses of his hand. How thorough was fate, how cruel, to think of everything; taking him back to the clothes he had been wearing at first, so that when his hand had gone instinctively to his neck for the locket that used to belong to Arrys, he had felt only youthful skin.

He didn't even know - he couldn't know. What did she think? Did she believe he was dead, lying as a corpse in some lush valley of a river? Or that he had returned at last to whatever place he had come from, those Sons of Adams and Daughters of Eve? That must be the belief, it must have been wove into the tales of legend and myth that so permeated their arrival. She had never seen him as a legend though. He had loved her for it.

He had gone to the library, pointless he knew, but he did it anyway. He had read about the kings of legend. He read about King Arthur and the mist of folklore that surrounds his death and journey by boat to Avalon. Was that what it was like? Did they believe in his return? He wished he could believe in it like they must.

His mother looked at him and saw a handsome young boy. She never understood why he showed no interest in the opposite sex as he grew older. She kept waiting for the day when he would bring a girl home and she would be expected to judge, but it never came. She stopped expecting it.

Peter would never have been able to do that.

There were so many girls, but he had met them all already. And the strange unraveling of time changed nothing in his heart.

At night he lay awake and looked at the ceiling and wondered at the path that he must take. What becomes of a man who lives two lifetimes? Is he not blessed? Or is it rather cursed?

He lay and he closed his eyes, and tried to pretend that he was a man outwardly again, and beside him lay Arrys, her cool breath upon his shoulder, the tapestry woven by thankful hands above them. He could close his eyes and see it now, the vibrant birds of paradise and nymphs. He had joked with Arrys that there was one that particularly resembled her - to the side, looking at a lake covered in lilies. Her face was half covered with her hair, and her legs were curled up under her. She had said she looked nothing like that nymph, but he had always thought she did.

He wondered about their child. Was it living? Had it taken up his place? His dreams were filled with sheltering mothers' arms and babies' cheeks like petals of a white rose, blushed with pink.

He grew old inside; though he was only slightly older he passed from manhood into weariness inside. There was still that grave nature to him, he still had the leadership, but he was a leader bowed by circumstances, conquered by something inescapable. His aunt remarked that perhaps a changeling had been exchanged for him in that country house, and his mother had quickly leapt to his defense, perhaps because it hit too near the mark.

He did not assume to have the most difficulty; he saw his brother and sisters struggling with the same thing. But Arrys, it was always Arrys, that piece of him that was not trapped inside providence


At the train station that day, nothing had changed. He had felt nothing different. It was another year of school, pretending to these people that he had not already halfway trodden the path towards the end. He had been pulled, and startlingly placed in this world he did not recognize. He refused to believe it was Narnia, refused to let himself hope.

When he saw Cair Paravel, and the chess piece, he knew.

He saw the waves of time pass over the castle, and Narnia, and Arrys, before his eyes - he saw everything give way to death. He saw that it could have happened in a minute, the minute that had passed as soon as he had exited the wardrobe. In that moment he had not even had time to realize. She had died before he could feel the loss of her.

When he took Trumpkin aside he knew nothing of the wife of the High King Peter, nor did the old Doctor of Caspian. She had slipped from history as she had slipped into his life. Of a child there was nothing to be heard.

But he had put on a brave face, and tried to be like he had been before. It worked on the outside, and almost worked inside. Aslan did some of that.

When Aslan stood before Peter and said that there would be no coming back to Narnia, Peter knew that Aslan knew. There had never been any reason why he wouldn't know. After all, he was Aslan. He wanted so badly for Aslan to tell him what had happened, what had been their fate; but that was not the way of Aslan. After a moment of looking into those strangely golden eyes Peter remembered this.

There was grief in Peter's heart, not being able to return to this place where his wife had come from, where every leaf and rustle of the wind reminded him of her in some way. But she was no longer there, except in spirit. And that spirit was surely not bound to one world.

Aslan erected the door, simple with its frame.

When Peter walked through he took one last look at it all - at everything - and then passed.