Chapter 16

Round and Round Again

The crowds gathered at the Castle of Cair Paravel in the morning, dressed in their finest. Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy, led by the great lion, moved slowly down the isle parted for them, and smiled as everyone bowed low.

Peter felt his heart beating madly as he walked up the glittering steps to his throne, covered with deep, sapphire blue velvet. Aslan watched as Mr. and Mrs. Beaver made their way to the front of the great throne room, holding four small pillows. Sitting upon the pillows were crowns of different shapes, sizes, and colors…gold, silver, jewel-embedded.

Mr. Tumnus came next, beaming at Lucy as he approached the stairs, and he bowed once to Aslan.

The room becam silent once the four monarchs were standing together, and Aslan at last, began to speak:

"To the glistening eastern sea, I give you…Queen Lucy the Valiant."

"To the great western wood, I give you…King Edmund, the Just."

Peter turned to his younger brother, beaming with pride. Edmund, since arriving in Narnia, had gone through such a drastic change…and certainly for the better. Edmund smiled back after the crown was placed on his head, and he mouthed, "I love you" before taking a seat on his throne.

Peter felt his throat choking up with tears, and when he lifted his head at the sound of,

"To the radian southern Sun, Queen Susan, the Gentle…"

he half expected to see Ethan strolling casually through the great double doors. He knew it was crazy…his best friend was gone forever, he would not come.

"To the clear Northern sky, I give you, King Peter, the Magnificent!"

The cheer that followed was deafening, and Peter felt slightly faint as he practically tumbled into his seat. Susan squeezed his hand lovingly and he smiled back at her, before turning his gaze to his royal subjects.

"Once a King and Queen of Narnia, always a king or queen." Aslan let out a great rawr that nearly shook the entire castle, and trumpets began to play, amidst, "Long Live Queen Lucy! Long Live King Edmund!"

Peter felt tears filling his eyes; this was real. He was really a King, about to take an entire nation under his wing.

"Listen to your heart, Peter…I will always be there," a familiar voice spoke inside of his head, and he closed his eyes.

"Peter, it's been sighted again, it's been sighted! Come on, wake up, oh hurry up!"

Peter lay staring at the wall, bundled under his thick covers. It was pitch black in his bedroom, and he realized he'd woken from a dream. The coronation…it was hard to believe that he, his brother and sisters had been ruling in Narnia for twenty years already.

"Peter, don't make me break down the door," Edmund's voice called, and Peter let out a soft groan, stretching his arms over his head. He slid over the edge of his bed and made his way towards the great window, pulling open the curtain.

Bright sunshine glistened on a broad-chested, middle-aged man now, with a thin strawberry-blonde beard. He gazed at his reflection in the window, jumping when the door opened at last. "You did hear me," Edmund chuckled, and Peter turned to him.

"Sorry, Ed," he apologized. "What was it?"

"The stag's been sighted! Just slightly North of here! Come on, brother…I've woken the girls, and they're getting ready."

The White Stag…an animal Peter and his siblings had been after for the past several years. If caught, it would give one three wishes, but it was almost an impossible task.

"About time, eh?" Peter asked with a chuckle, as he shuffled about his room, gathering his hunting attire.

"What were you dreaming about, anyway?" Edmund…though younger, stood about a head taller than the High King. He was clean-shaven with his trademark raven hair, and dark brown eyes.

"Oh, times long past," Peter replied thoughtfully. "Our coronation. I was just thinking how long it has been since then."

Edmund nodded. "Time does fly, eh?" he patted his brother's shoulder, and the two hurried into the corridor. Lucy and Susan were both giggling together and waiting for them, both blossoming into beautiful women.

"We thought you'd never get up," Susan teased as they made their way for the main doors of the castle.

"It has been a long week," Peter admitted, and Lucy giggled.

"Well, I feel as though I could catch that stag single handed," Edmund joked, and Susan gave him a warning look. "You migh as well stay at the castle, girls," he added, puffing out his chest. "I'll go get the stag myself."

"You wouldn't," Susan gasped, and Peter smirked.

"Damn right he wouldn't."

"I wouldn't," Edmund laughed, as they rushed out towards the stables. It was a beautiful spring day; the air was thick with the scent of cherry blossoms. Peter mounted his white unicorn, cleverly named Sunbeam, and waited patiently for his siblings to catch up.

"Where did you say it was, Ed?" he asked, and Edmund pointed in the direction of the western woods, before urging Phillip into a canter. The girls brought up the rear, talking and laughing the entire way.

"With your chatter, we'll scare it off," Edmund told them as they approached the edge of the woods.

"Is it just the trick of the sun, or does Peter look pale to you, Lu?" Susan asked, watching as their oldest brother rode in first, whistling to an old tune.

"Mmmmm," Lucy murmered, and looked at Edmund. "He has been very tired lately."

"Moreso than usual I fear," Susan whispered, and they clucked kindly at their steeds, who hesitated for a moment before following Edmund.

"You all right there, Phillip?" Edmund asked, after a good part of the ride was over.

"Not as young as I once was," Phillip replied calmly, and they stopped short.

"Peter?" Edmund asked, noticing his brother had pulled Sunbeam to a halt in the middle of the woods. They had reached a clearing, one they hadn't passed before. Or…in ages. "Are you all right?"

Peter looked at him, loosening his grip on his reins. "I feel strange," he replied. "I'm so cold all of the sudden."

"Dismount before you fall off," Susan begged, and then she saw it. "Oh! What is this?" she asked, noticing an iron pole with a great lantern attached to the top.

Peter steadied his trembling body against Sunbeam, and eyed it. "It feels like something out of a dream, Susan," Lucy breathed, as she dismounted, too, and circled it. "Oh, goodness, what a contraption!"

"It's not a contraption," Edmund snorted. "Girls, it's a lamppost, see?" he pointed at the flames. "Peter, what's the matter?"

"I don't know," Peter whispered, and the other three prepared to catch him in case he fainted, for he looked as though he might. "No wait, just a second…I think it's passing." He closed his eyes and took a deep, trembling breath, allowing Lucy to rub his back soothingly.

"Are you sure?" she asked, and he nodded slowly.

"Yes. I suppose I…just…" he paused, and they turned to where he did. "What in Aslan's name, is that?" he pointed, and they all gasped.

"It's a doorway! But it's…it's planted in the ground as though it were floating," Susan breathed. "Oh, now we must be dreaming."

"You're still trembling, Peter," Lucy said quietly, and he squeezed her arm comfortingly.

"No worries, Lu." He looked at them. "I never pass up an adventure, though. Shall we?"

Susan stared. "Go through the door, you mean?"

"Of course. Who knows—it could be a sign." He winked, and she rolled her eyes.

"Honestly, I think we may have missed the stag, dearest. But all right, I suppose if you are up for an adventure, so am I."

Edmund grinned and, after they tied their animals, linked arms with his siblings for safety. They headed in the direction of the mysterious doorway, and reached a thick grove of pine trees beforehand.

"Oh…" Peter fell to his knees, and the girls cried out in alarm.

"What is it?" Edmund demanded, shocked at the strange sound of his own voice. "What the…" he cleared his throat.

"I'm so cold," Peter whispered, and the girls held him tightly, urging him through the branches and towards the doorway. It would be too much of a strenuous ride back to Cair Paravel at this point—he needed to rest, without a doubt. "Let me up," he begged, and they eased him to his feet, stumbling into the depths of the doorway.

"These aren't branches," Edmund breathed as he felt his way through the pine needles, which felt softer and softer by the second.

"Oh, they're coats," Susan breathed, realizing how much younger her voice sounded.

"Ow, watch it, Edmund," Lucy snapped as he stepped on the back of her heel.

"Sorry!" Edmund retorted. "But there isn't much room in here, in case you haven't noticed!"

"Peter, are you…OH!" the four of the suddenly lurched forward, and fell flat onto a hard surface. They raised their heads a moment later, and realized they were no longer adults, but the ages they had been before they left for Narnia. Peter lay on his side, his head nestled in his arms, trembling slightly, and coughed.

"Ugh," he muttered, and Lucy gasped.

"Oh my," she said, peering at her hands, and watched as Susan did the same. "We're…" she swallowed, turning to Edmund, who was helping Peter sit up slowly. "Home again."

There was a knock on the door to the spare room at that very moment, and the four siblings jumped at the noise.

"Is this a private party, or might I join you?"

The voice on the otherside belonged to the Professor, and Susan called that it was all right he come in.

Professor Kirke pulled open the door and stood gaping at them, frowning as Peter began coughing again.

"Mrs. McCready mentioned you were taking a walk up here," he said, and then glanced at the open door of the wardrobe. "What were you all doing in there?" he pointed to it.

"Sir," Peter whispered, glancing at Edmund, who smiled fondly. "You wouldn't believe us if we told you."

Professor Kirke chuckled warmly. "Oh, I wouldn't, eh?" he asked. "Why don't you try me?"

The four Pevensie children stared at one another, startled.

"I don't know if we even understand it ourselves, sir," Susan admitted as Professor Kirke eased Peter to his feet, wrapping an arm around the boy's shoulders for support.

"Not logical, eh?" he winked. "Come on, lad, we'll get you back into bed," he told Peter. "You've over-exerted yourself, I'm afraid."

"Sorry," Peter apologized.

"I telegraphed for your mother," Professor Kirke said, once he helped Peter back under the covers. "She is arriving as soon as she is able."

The other three gasped with delight. "Oh, oh, then she's safe," Lucy gasped, clutching Peter's hand. "I knew it would all turn out all right!"

"We don't know of Father," Susan admitted, as Professor Kirke draped a compress over Peter's forehead, and gave him a gentle pat on the hand.

"Mother…she shouldn't have to come," Peter whispered.

"She's anxious, Peter. I couldn't keep her away," Professor Kirke said. "Now, tell me everything, children. Believe me, I daresay logic must be tossed aside at this rate."

Lucy, who sat on Peter's bed and held his hand, started off. "Well, sir, you see, it began when I discovered Narnia through the wardrobe when trying to hide from…everything." She hesitated to say Edmund's name, though he understood, and gave her an apologetic expression. "And I met a Faun named Mr. Tumnus, who took me in for tea!"

Susan, Peter and Edmund glanced at one another with small smiles, knowing the story all too well.

"P'raps I'd better tell you in private, Professor," Lucy suddenly paused. "Peter needs rest."

Professor Kirke chuckled warmly, and patted her on the head. "I do believe you're right," he agreed. "Come and join me in my study, and let your brother sleep."

Lucy pecked a kiss on Peter's cheek and followed the Professor out of the room, leaving Susan and Edmund behind for the moment.

"Mother is coming," Peter said softly, and Susan nodded.

"Yes, she is."

"Do you think we'll be able to go home?"

Edmund shrugged. "I dunno. P'raps it's better for you out in the country for a while," he suggested, and Peter nodded softly.

"Just rest, Peter," Susan encouraged, pulling the blankets up to her brother's chin. "We'll be here if you need us."

Peter smiled weakly at them as they stood to go. "I love you," he told them, and they smiled back.

"We love you, too, Peter," Susan and Edmund replied in unison, before shutting the door behind them.

Mrs. Pevensie arrived at Professor Kirke's mansion the next evening, and immediately demanded to see her eldest son. Peter was lying on the parlor couch, reading Grimm's Fairy Tales to Lucy when she came in, and jumped at the collective gasp from his siblings.

"Mother!" Susan cried with delight as she entered, and Lucy let out a shriek, flying from Peter's lap and into her mother's arms. Mrs. Pevensie embraced all of her children, sobbing softly, and saying how terribly she missed them.

"We've not been gone but more than a week, Mum," Susan giggled through her tears, and watched as mother went to Peter, feeling his forehead.

"My darling, how are you feeling?" she asked, after kissing his cheeks and holding him close.

"Better," Peter admitted. "Very tired, though."

"Thank God." She breathed.

"We would have written sooner, Mum, but we didn't know if it would reach you," Susan said, and Mrs. Pevensie kept a tight hold on Peter's hand.

"Might I have a word?" Professor Kirke asked, once he decided it was time ot make an appearance. Mrs. Pevensie nodded and, after kissing Peter's cheek, followed the older man into the hall.

"Wonder what they're talking about?" Lucy asked, and Peter bit his lip.

"Dunno." He sighed quietly, as he heard a soft sob from his mother.

"Want me to eavesdrop?" Edmund whispered, and Peter shook his head.

"No," he replied, and Professor Kirke stuck his head in again.

"Edmund, Susan, Lucy? Would you skidaddle and give Peter, your mother and I a chance to talk in private?"

They agreed and hurried off, and Peter sat up a bit straighter when the two adults came in. "What's wrong?" he asked as Mrs. Pevensie sat on the couch beside him, taking his hand tightly in hers.

"Professor Kirke has volunteered to help you continue your studies," she said. "I do not think it will be good for your health to return to boarding school in the fall."

"Correspondance courses, you see," Professor Kirke explained. "You will still graduate with your class, but you will study here in the manor with me."

"Oh," Peter replied softly, and Mrs. Pevensie touched his cheek tenderly.

"It is for the best, darling," she replied. "Your heart is too weak. I would rather that you take things very slowly, and to be surrounded by so many other children would be too much."

Peter nodded. "Would the others be going back?" he asked, and she nodded.

"Yes. But they will return here for the holidays, and so will I, until Father returns from the war."

"Is that all right, lad?" Professor Kirke asked, and Peter gave a slow nod. "It will be an adjustment, but I think it will do just fine. In the meantime, Helen, please stay as long as you like. There is plenty of room, and I believe a change of scenery would do you some good as well for a while."

Mrs. Pevensie nodded her agreement. "Thank you, Professor. You have been very kind to my family…I do not know how to repay you."

Professor Kirke waved his hand. "Nonsense," he said. "There is no need of repayment. I was happy to do it, and I needed the company in my old age. Between you and me, Peter my boy, the Macready is not considered appropriate company for a cooky old gentleman like myself."

Peter laughed. "No in deed," he replied. When the two adults left him alone for the moment, he glanced at the copy of Grimm's Fairytales that lay open on the floor, and picked it up. It belonged at one point, to Ethan, who had given it to Lucy for her love of fairies. He saw his best friend's signature scribbled into the top corner of the inside cover.

I'll be waiting for you, Ethan's voice spoke inside of his head again.

"And I'll never forget that," Peter responded softly as he marked the page and shut the book. "Never."

The End