Title: Defying Gravity
Author: Hermione Eveningfall
Fandom: Chronicles of Narnia
Note: This story is based on a scene from Sentimental Star's wonderful fic, "Give a Little". I was given permission to flesh this out, so the idea is not my original one. Thanks so much!
I didn't want them to go, but Peter said they had to. It had been snowing all night long, and the ground was covered with a wonderful thick blanket, untouched by human or animal life. Susan and I stand at the doorway of our great castle, Cair Paravel, and watch as Peter and Edmund walked out into the blizzard-like conditions to the stables.
It was very early in the morning still; the rest of the castle was still sound asleep. But Mr. Tumnus came to wake my oldest brother, the High King, to tell him of a band of renegade dwarves that were spotted in the area around the stone table. And, no matter what type of weather it is, my brothers must do what is expected of them.
Before following Edmund through the main doors, he bent down to kiss my forehead, promising me that he would return hopefully before luncheon. I bite my lip worriedly as he stifles a cough afterwards, and Susan puts her hand gently on my shoulder. You see, Peter has asthma, which is a lung disease. He's had it his whole life, and sometimes he can't breathe. Actually, we both have it, but his is worse…much worse. I'm rarely bothered by it at all, thank Aslan.
"Oh, please be careful," Susan whispers after hugging them both, and ties Peter's scarf more tightly about his neck.
"Ready, Ed?" Peter asks, his voice still a bit raspy. With a salute from both of our brave brothers, they force their way outside, covering their faces with their arms to block out the nearly blinding snow. When the doors slams shut, Susan and I still sand, looking at one another, wetting our lips.
"Well, I suppose we ought to take some breakfast," she tells me, and I clench my at my sides, keeping my head down. "Oh Lu, they'll be all right. Rebel dwarves are nothing. Peter will probably merely have to say a few words to send them off." She rubbed her arms, shivering a little from the dampness of the great hall.
"I suppose they've started off, then?"
We turn to see Mr. Tumnus standing a few feet away, still wearing the red scarf I've grown so accustomed to. He smiles at me, and I go to hug him, to tell him everything. Mr. Tumnus was the first dear friend I made here in Narnia; he is the one person, besides Peter, whom I go to when I feel frightened about something.
"I am sure he'll be all right," Mr. Tumnus insisted, as we descended a flight of steps in the direction of the dining hall.
It is funny, you know? We have been in Narnia for two years already, and everything from the stone floor to the high ceilings of Cair Paravel still are quite a wonder.
We sit in our usual places, finding it a bit odd not to see Peter at the head of the table, nor Edmund beside me. Mr. Tumnus joins us as usual, however, and talks with Susan while our meals are served. Mmmm, our favorite: fresh eggs, bacon, and toast with just the perfect amount of strawberry preserves and marmelade. I eat with great appetite despite my worries, but still keeps my gaze in the direction of the great window.
The snow is letting up at last, and by the time Susan and I finish eating, we are anxious to go out and play in it. "The boys will be perfectly safe," she assures me as we bundle up, making sure to include our gloves and scarves. I love playing in the snow; it didn't much back at all in England.
The two of us treck outside, our boots crunching upon the white drifts. I watch as my breath makes white puffs, like the steam coming from a train's smoke stack. I am staring up at the cloudy sky, blinking as a few stray snowflakes fall, and yelp with surprise when a snowball cuffs my shoulder.
Queen Susan the Gentle points at me laughing, her eyes sparkling with merriment. "Got you!" she shouts, and with a mischevious grin of my own, I stoop down to roll my own missile. As we throw snowballs back and forth at each other, our shrieks and giggles fill the ears of the imperial court and palace workers as they begin to wake for the day, I still worry about my brothers.
Susan grows tired of our snowball fight, and plops down in the snow to make an angel print with her arms and legs, I gaze longingly into the dark depths of the woods. 'Aslan be with them,' I pray, clasping my hands tightly together.
Peter lets out a harsh sneeze as the two of us ride onward through the forest, making good time, in my opinion. "Bless you," I tell him, smirking. I know he is coming down with his annual cold; he was so sick all last night, coughing, but all the while promising he was fine when we'd go to check on him.
And, being the dolt he is, he decided to go out and take care of the matter anyway.
"You can't possibly battle the dwarves by yourself, Ed," Peter said, laughing. However, that laughter soon broke into a series of coughs that nearly took his breath away.
I know it is no use arguing the point, but I still fix my disapproving eye on him. He may be the High King, or as he is known throughout Narnia: Peter the Magnificent. But he's certainly not magnificent when it comes to dealing with his health.
"Good thing it's stopped snowing at least," I point out, though the sky is still laden with thick, threatening clouds. Peter gives a great sniff as he turns his white unicorn to the left. How I wish to be back at the castle; my stomach rumbles with hunger as the thought of the grand breakfast we were probably missing. We packed a loaf of bread for us to share, along with a flask of hot wine each. Still, it is not bacon or eggs, or sweet cakes or coffee. But I digress.
I allow Peter to go on ahead, and pull back, watching his poised, regal figure. Whenever I look at my oldest brother, my heart swells with pride for him. He is our guardian angel, and Susan calls him "dear heart", which is an appropriate nickname. He is nothing else but a dear, that's for sure…though it has taken me quite a long time to come to terms with the idea.
"Keeping up, Ed?" Peter calls, glancing over his shoulder. I smirk, and urge my good Phillip into a comfortable canter; I could tell we were preparing to leave the wood and reach the great river.
"How are you feeling?" I ask, shivering a little, despite my heavy coat and other winter accessories. His breathing has not been well at all this winter, despite his best efforts to put on a cheerful front for us and the rest of our household. Susan, Lucy and I know better, of course.
"Never mind, Ed," Peter insists, looking at me. "Let's stop and have a bit of breakfast, shall we?"
The cold isn't bad yet…he still has an appetite.
I agree and pull gently on Phillip's reins, pleased as my horse kneels down to let me off. "I need a bit of a rest myself," he tells me through snickers. I pat his flank affectionately; we do not need to tie our animals, for we know they won't leave us. Peter spreads a thick blanket on a clear patch of ground, coughing again, but straightening when I set out the food and drink.
"You need a drink, I'm sure," I laugh, as he immediately reaches for his flask, and he wrinkles his nose playfully. "I'll tell you, I wish we could have stayed in our beds." I nibble at the fresh bread, watching as Phillip comes to nudge Peter with his nose, hoping for a sugar cube. Peter winks at me and reaches into his little sack, producing the sweet treat, and Phillip sucks it up with delight.
"Good boy," he praises, and I give Phillip a raised eyebrow as he turns to me.
"Peter is the one with the treats, Phil," I say.
"You are my master," Phillip snickers, and Peter snorts.
"And I appreciate you very much," I assure him, and he wanders off to lay down and take a breather. Peter and I don't say anything as we eat; we merely take in our surroundings. Winter has never been either of our favorite times of the year; Peter is usually ill, which is almost fitting in a sense. It took nearly all of our strength to defeat the white witch, and at last spring came to Narnia, after one hundred long years of endless cold and ice. Thank Aslan we came when we did.
"You're awful quiet, Ed," Peter tells me after we finish our bread and pack up our things to continue the journey. We've no time to waste.
I look at him and smile, clasping a hand on his shoulder. "Don't worry about me," I insist, and he raises an eyebrow.
"I'll be all right," he promises, as though reading my mind.
"You're going to kill yourself in this weather," I suddenly snap. "I wish you'd agreed to stay home." I swing myself into Phillip's saddle, and turn away, feeling instantly guilty. "I'm sorry," I apologize as Peter comes to my side. "I worry about you 's all. Susan thinks you should go for an examination…"
"Ed, when would I have time for that?" he asks as he climbs onto the horse. "You know how busy my days are."
"An examination would not take long, Peter."
"I know it's the asthma," he tells me. "I know what it is, Ed. Why would I go for an exam?"
I look at him sternly still, and he sighs. "Come on," he encourages, and I know it's time to end the subject. We keep riding and curse aloud when the snow begins to fall again.
Peter procedes to sneeze again, and I roll my eyes, glad I am riding behind him where he can't see me. "Bless you," I say, and we come to the edge of the wood at last. We stand looking at the Great River, our eyes following the great chunks of ice that drift past.
"Lucky I've found a way around this," Peter says, and I nod with agreement. I remember the girls telling me about their journey across the river to get to Aslan's How; it was so cold that they couldn't breathe. Lucy nearly drowned in that water. I shudder again, the snowflakes clinging to my hair.
We're not far at all from the Stone Table, not far at all. I can smell danger in the air; though it won't be a large scale battle, that is for certain. Nothing compares to the battle we fought against the white witch. But whenever we are preparing to fight an enemy, my adrenaline rushes through my veins, giving me such strength, that I feel I could lift Phillip with ease in my bare hands.
I tell Peter this and he grins, pausing so I can catch up. "I know what you mean," he tells me, and we soon stop talking.
The rest of our journey is like this, but it is all right with me. Just to be in Dear Heart's presence is enough, I think.
When we approach the Stone Table at last, it is nearly three hours later, and we see them. The Dwarves are camped about, roasting meat on a spit in the crack. Peter glances at me and the two of us brandish our swords, startling the intruders with the sound of metal clanking against metal. I hear Peter's booming voice, demanding that if they leave at once, no harm will come.
The Dwarves merely sneer and throw insults at my brother, and I feel my cheeks flushing with fury. How dare they, how dare they!
"It's no use, Peter," I call, and he looks at me, his eyes narrowed. He was hoping not to have to kill today, and I don't blame him. But sometimes you have to in an act of defense. The next few minutes are a flash of metal and blood; I am nearly sick with exhaustion when silence fills the air, and we stare at the mass of Dwarven bodies around us. A few escaped in time; I watch as they run as fast as their short legs can carry them.
"Are you…" I swallow, watching as Peter dismounts from his unicorn, cleaning the blood and grime off of his sword. He goes to the edge of the cliff to gaze over the lands beyond, and I know to leave him be for the time being. He needs to soak everything in, so I take this opportunity to speak in a quiet voice with my horse.
We remain at the Stone Table for a good half an hour. I am sure we would stay longer, but the snow is thickening by the minute, and Peter looks worse…his cheeks are so pale. I knew this would be too much for him, but he never listens to me. Never. Dammit, Peter, I curse to myself, listening to his harsh bouts of coughing as we begin the return journey.
The snow is nearly blinding; I want to be home with the girls, home with Mr. Tumnus, home with the court even. I want Peter to be in bed, where he has the safety of the imperial doctors and his medicine. Phillip lets out a snort of irritation, shaking his mane and tail.
"Sorry," I apologize, realizing I am squeezing too tightly against his sides.
"Can't see a blasted thing," I call to Peter as we near the Great River again. There are many trees in Narnia, so many trees… and I never thought I could hate one.
"Careful of the branches, Ed!" Peter shouts, though I can barely hear him over the roar of the wind. I start to shout a response, but the sharp branch of a great pine strikes my cheek with such force, that I am thrown from the saddle. Phillip rears with alarm at my horrified shout, and I tumble down the frozen bank, barely having time to grab onto anything for my life. I splash into the ice cold water, and feel as though I am being stabbed by the witch over and over again. I can't breathe; oh Aslan, this is what it was like! I can't breathe at all…
Peter pulls the unicorn's reins to stop him, and without a second thought, leaps off of his animal's back.
"Your Highness!" Phillip whinnies shrilly as he rushes through the snow and to the edge of the bank. My horse is smart enough that he knows what Peter wants to do.
"EDMUND!" Peter calls, and I am struggling against the currents now, spluttering and choking on the drops that fly at my face.
"Pe…" I start to cry, but swallow a mouthful of foam that makes my head spin. Damn my stubbornness for not wanting to take swimming lessons. All of my siblings have mastered the art in Narnia (Lucy couldn't swim for nuts in England), but I never quite got it down.
Before I go under again, I can see Peter take a deep breath and do a great swan dive into the frozen depths. If we both survive this, I am going to kill you, Peter Pevensie! I think angrily, as I pop out again. I see him swimming frantically for me, soaked to the very skin. "Ed, try to paddle towards me!" he shouts, his lips turning blue. I'm so tired, Peter, I can't…I just want to float here…in deed, my arms are so sore, my head is so dizzy, I can't.
I start to close my eyes again, the river engulfing me like a heavy blanket.
Before I know it, Peter grasps the collar of my hunting jacket, hoisting me up above the surface. My vision blurs as he drags me through the currents, crying out as a great ice berg nearly knocks his head. The horses are watching us as he eventually reaches the snowy bank, managing to grab hold of a great vine that is hanging from one of the shrubs. I can hardly feel a thing now, I am so frozen. Peter, please…
Peter sticks his free fingers in his mouth and whistles; Whitherwings, his unicorn, comes galloping towards us, lowering its head so he can grab hold of the reins. I feel light; I feel weightless. Am I dying? Why is everything going black?
Eventually Whitherwings pulls us onto the bank, and both of us flop against the snow. Peter coughs and spits up mouthfuls of water, staring at my half-conscioius figure. "Ed, Ed!" he shouts weakly, removing his own jacket and wrapping it around my shoulders; it's no use, his jacket is just as wet as mine. But it doesn't matter.
"Is he…dead?" Phillip comes over to us, lowering his velvety nose towards my face, nudging the side of my head with it. Peter coughs hard into a fist, wheezing loudly.
"No," he croaks, and Whitherwings nudges him comfortingly. "Whither," he gasps, grabbing the unicorn's reins and hoisting himself to his feet, leaning against the horse's warm coat. "Thank you," he breathes, and the unicorn merely gives a quiet snicker.
"King Edmund," Phillip speaks into my ear, but I am too weak to answer. I don't want to open my eyes; but I hear Peter's coughing again, and I struggle…finally, I see something white. More snow…
"Pe…" I gasp, and he comes to my side again, helping me to sit, and allowing me to choke up a great mouthful of water at last. "Sick," I tell him, and he holds me tight, breaking down at last, and presses his cheek against my hair.
"No, you," I say, when he starts to inquire where it hurts. "We…we have to get home," I croak, struggling to my feet. "I can tell you're burning up, Peter."
He looks at me with disbeief, shivering violently. "You idiot," I say, removing his coat from my shoulders. "What'd you give me your coat, for!"
"Ed…" Peter whispers, and I immediately wrap it around him. He sneezes violently twice, and his teeth are chattering so hard, I can hear them. He's wheezing again, and I rub his back, trying to console him.
"I'm sorry," I apologize, and he looks at me.
"You're all right," he chokes, and I nod. "That's what matters, Ed." He kisses my forehead before trying to pull himself onto Whitherwing's back, but slips. He's so weak that he can't even get onto his horse.
"Oy," I growl. "The girls are going to kill us both when we return. Come, climb onto Phillip's back with me…Whitherwings'll follow us home. He knows where to go…you're too weak to ride by yourself."
Peter groans; I know he's in such pain now, but there's nothing we can do about it. Not out here in the wildnerness of Narnia. I feel achy all over, and my head is still reeling from the scare, but I am not ill…not that I know of, anyway. I take Peter's arm and help him climb onto Phillip's back, encouraging him to wrap his arms around my waist for support. He leans against my back as I take Phillip's reins, and I promise him that we will be home as soon as we can.
"Peter, Peter, pumpkin eater, who had a wife and couldn't keep her…he put her in a pumpkin shell, and there he kept her pretty well…" I sit on the bench of the grand piano, playing a duet with Mr. Tumnus. It was just past luncheon, and the boys still hadn't returned.
Susan sits by the window of the ballroom, watching as the snow continues to fall harder than ever.
"Polly, put the kettle on, Polly, Put the kettle on, Polly put the kettle on, we'll all have tea…"
As my worry for Deart Heart and Edmund increases, I play faster.
"Sukey, take it off again, Sukey take it off again, Sukey take it off again, they've all gone away…"
My heart is racing as the great clock chimes the hour. It is two o'clock already; Peter promised they would return for luncheon! Where are they?
We finish our song, and I cover my face with my hands. Aslan, Aslan…I pray, feeling Mr. Tumnus rub my back comfortingly. I uncover my fast jut in time to hear Susan's strangled cry of alarm, "Ohhhh!"
I gasp, not having a chance to ask what on earth was the matter. She is off and running out of the room before I even stand up. I kiss Mr. Tumnus on the cheek before hitching my skirts and dash after her, my high-heeled shoes clacking on the stone floor.
She is only a few feet ahead of me, but she is in a right panic; I can tell by the way she breathes as she runs. "Susan! Su, what happened?" I cry, tripping over a maid, and apologize quickly.
Susan does not answer. We run until we reach the main doors of Cair Paravel, and with one great yank, she pulls them open. I appear beside her and the blood drains from my face. Whitherwings approaches the castle first, his saddle empty.
"Oh God," I breathe, covering my mouth with my hand, for I can't see Phillip anywhere. The snow is coming down too heavily to see two feet past my nose. Susan dashes out, not caring that she does not have her cloak, and I follow…I don't care either.
"PETER!" She screams, her voice nearly lost in the roaring wind. My tears are silent, and nearly freeze right to my skin as soon as they fall from my eyes. "EDMUND!" She frantically looks from left to right.
"PETER!" I echo, and she clutches my arm, her sobs growing louder.
"D'you…d'you think they're…" I choke, and she shakes me.
"They're not," she hisses. "Lu, they can't be…"
Oh curse our luck that Peter's unicorn was not blessed with the gift of speech.
"EDMUND!" I cry again, gasping as the cold takes my breath away. Susan orders me indoors at once, and I am about to protest sharply, when we hear a whinnie in the distance. At once, I know it is Phillip.
"Oh…" Susan gulps, shielding her eyes.
Before long, the brown horse trots into view, carrying both of our brothers on his back. Peter is holding onto Ed for dear life, and they barely make it to the castle's entrance when he slips off, his last ounce of strength leaving him completely.
"NO!" Susan screams as Edmund leaps off and hoists our older brother upright, tapping his cheeks and calling his name. "Get him inside," she says, and thank the lion that Oreius approaches at that very moment. The head Centaur lifts our High King into his arms with ease, carrying his practically limp body indoors. Ed stands holding onto Phillips' reins, muttering that he is going to take the horses to the barn and wipe them both down.
"You are half frozen, Edmund, you will not!" Susan cries, and tells me she's going to fetch one of our stable boys before going to tend to Peter. Edmund stands in the doorway, gazing blankly ahead, and I encourage him to come indoors.
"Edmund?" I ask as he trips, nearly bringing me down with him. I cry out, catching him around the waist, and steadying us against the wall.
"Lu…sorry…we're late," he croaks, and before I can answer, he slides to the ground in a dead faint as well.
"Edmund!" I cry, falling to my knees beside him, and turn him over on his back. "Ed!" I shake him, trying to bring him out of it. "Edmund!"
"Lucy?" Mr. Tumnus comes to our rescue shortly afterwards, and stops short of the fallen King. "Oh dear, oh dear…this is a dark day in deed," he says softly as I finally start to cry. I can only watch as Mr. Tumnus lifts Ed into his arms and brings him to his quarters.
In the meantime, Susan removes Peter's sodden clothes, smoothing his feverish cheeks. He has come out of his faint, though is coughing hard when I arrive. "Edmund is down," I tell her when I come into the room, and grimace as Peter sneezes harshly, dripping from head to toe.
"Bless you," both of us tell him, and he groans.
"Lu, fetch his peppermint handkerchiefs, will you?" Susan asks, pointing to the nightstand.
"Where'm I…" Peter whispers as she towel's his hair as dry as she can. I present her with the handkerchiefs and climb onto the bed, rubbing his lower body with another towel. He is still shivering so violently, and hisses when I touch his burning skin.
"I'm sorry," I apologize and he looks at me.
"Lu?" he croaks, as though he has just realized our presence, and I start to cry softly. I cannot bear to see him like this.
"Peter," I whisper, once he is put into a fresh nightgown. "You have to rest."
"Ed?" he can barely produce more than one word at a time without breaking into another series of rough coughs. Susan rubs his back soothingly, pulling the blankets to his chin. His shivering does not ease much at all.
"Lu, fetch the doctor at once," Susan tells me as he closes his eyes in an attempt to sleep again. "Then check on Edmund and report to me about him."
I kiss Peter's burning forehead and squeeze his ice-cold hand lovingly, before sliding to the floor and clambering out again. Peter is so sick; we knew it was coming, but every time, no matter how hard we try to prevent it, it happens. I have no idea what happened to them out there, and I am quite certain that it will be some time before I hear their story.
I hear more coughing and wheezing as I disappear around a bend, hoping dear Dr. Rillatus isn't too terribly busy.
I'm so tired. So cold; it's so dark. Where is Peter…Dear Heart, where are you?
I groan softly at last, my eyes fluttering open. Much to my relief, I am in my bedroom, covered with several blankets. It is dark, with the exception of a small candle on the nightstand. My head is pounding as though there are dwarves mining for gold in it…damn those creatures!
I stat to sit up, but a sudden sneeze tosses me back against the pillows.
"Bless you, Edmund."
I clear my throat and turn…Lucy is sitting beside me, holding a book. Judging from the dark circles under her eyes, she's been sitting with me a while. I sit up again, but she eases me back against the pillows.
"Dear…" I croak, and she bites her lip.
"Dear Heart isn't well at all, Edmund. Susan is with him; and Dr. Rillatus. He's…" she swallows, trying to steady her voice, but Lucy has never been one to hide her emotions. "Dr. Rillatus tells us he's got pneumonia."
Pneumonia. The word strikes my stomach like a fist. Oh Peter…my Peter…no…I'm so sorry. You're going to die, and it's all my fault…
Lucy reaches up with her handkerchief, and dabs gently at my eyes. "Shuush, Ed," she soothes, but I don't care…I continue crying anyway.
"My fault," I choke, trembling, but not from the cold.
"What happened to you both?" Lucy asked, and I turn.
"You don't know?"
She shakes her head. "Peter is too ill, and you've been unconscious for hours."
I blink, and rub my sore eyes. "What time is it?" I realize I have no idea at all.
"It is eight o'clock," Lucy repolies. "You and Peter came back to the castle around three."
My eyes widen…golly, I must have had some faint!
"Well," I begin, "it's kind of a blur…what happened. But I remember falling into the Great River," I tell her. I can still feel the icy cold water engulfing me, suffocating me. I shudder and Lucy pulls the blankets closer to my chin, gasping in horror. She is remembering, I can tell.
"Sorry," I apologize, and she shakes her head.
"And Peter went in after you…"
I close my eyes. As much as I hate to cry in front of my sister…after all, I'm a bloody King for Aslan's sake! King's aren't supposed to cry...but I do anyway. Oh, I hate it, I hate this, I think, and Lucy wraps her arms around me, cradling me to her chest.
"Edmund, you didn't do it on purpose," she sooths, stroking my hair. "It was just an accident. You shouldn't feel badly over that."
"Peter's so sick," I tell her, and she nods.
"Yes, he is," she replies. "but…Dr. Rillatus thinks he'll eventually pull through. However, we won't know anything tonight."
"Aslan help him," I mutter as I lay back again, feeling so drained. If anything happens to Peter, if he dies…I won't be able to bear it, I just won't!
Lucy hiccoughs, and I notice the tears forming in her eyes again. "Lucy," I practically whisper, taking her shoulder. "You need to be with him. I'll be all right," I promise, and she starts to protest, but I give her as stern of a look as I can muster. "I don't want Su wearing herself out by staying up all night."
Lucy kisses my forehead. "Do you need anything?" she asks. "Shall I send you a cup of tea or soup?"
At the sound of the word soup, my stomach growls, and I realize I haven't eaten anything since breakfast.
"Yes, a bowl of soup would be nice," I tell her softly. "and….fresh bread, if that's not too much."
"Of course it isn't," Lucy giggles. "I will go and sit with Peter, Ed, and I'll report to you on his condition first thing tomorrow morning."
"I suppose I'll have to take charge of the court in the afternoon," I groan; that is usually Peter's duty. I do attend the court meetings for his moral support and chime in when necessary, but he makes the large speeches himself. After all, our household will want to know of his health, and our victory over the dwarves.
"Don't worry about that now," Lucy tells me. "You need to rest. But yes, you will." She squeezes my hand. "I will find a maid and send your dinner to you. Good night, Edmund." She plants another kiss on my cheek, and I watch as she takes her book and sweeps gracefully out of the room…well, tripping over a crack in the hall as she steps out. I laugh and she glares playfully at me.
"Do not tell anyone," she warns, and I wink.
"Cross my heart, Lu," I promise and I hear her footsteps as she walks down the corridor.
I hurry back to Peter's room after speaking with our palace chef. I can hear his continuous hacking as I approach the door, and peer in. Susan is still sitting beside the bed, blotting his feverish cheeks and neck with a cool rag. Thank Aslan he is sleeping now, though he is still wheezing softly.
"Edmund is feeling better," I announce, smoothing Peter's damp bangs away from his forehead, kissing it. He moans, coughing hard again.
"Good," she tells me. She takes his hand and presses it against her lips. "Dr. Rillatus soaked more handkerchiefs in peppermint oil for him, which as you can see has helped somewhat, and gave him a peppermint steam bath. He's exhausted, my poor darling," she says. "He'll be back first thing in the morning…he's very worried about his fever."
I nod…Peter is so warm to the touch.
He unconsciously takes my hand, which is sitting beside his on the mattress. I choke on a sob as he squeezes it weakly, his crystal blue eyes fluttering open.
"Lu…" he croaks, his voice so shallow. Susan bites her lip, ready to dash out of the room.
"I love you," I whisper in his ear, and he reaches up to stroke my cheek.
"Love…too," he croaks, before breaking into coughing again. Susan eases him into a sitting position so he can take a better breath, but he is almost choking.
"Peter, try to breathe through your nose," she encourages, and orders me to take out a peppermint handkerchief from the nightstand drawer. She pats his back, trying to loosen the fluid stuck in his lungs.
He looks at us with wide, terrified eyes…I know what it feels like when you can't breathe. "Sweetheart, try," I beg, holding the handky against his lips in case he needs to spit anything into it. "Keep patting his back," I tell Susan. "Try to do it a bit more roughly, though."
Peter looks ready to collapse from lack of oxygen, but he struggles as Susan pounds his back with her fists. At last he gags and spits something wet and sticky into the handkerchief, which makes my stomach roll over. I don't want to look at it, but I am relieved when he takes a breath of sweet air at last.
"Su…" I squeak, and she looks into the handkerchief; the mucus is mixed with blood.
"Don't…" she chokes, "don't tell Edmund, please," she begs.
"He knows Peter has pneumonia," I sob, clinging to my brother, burying my face against his shoulder as he lays gasping…well, wheezing. Susan holds the phial of peppermint oil under his nose, trying to encourage him to take it in.
His breathing softens again, and I lift my head, my cheeks wet with tears. "Su…" I breathe, "Edmund…he told me you should go off to bed for a bit. There's no sense in your staying here all night."
"You're too young to be sitting here alone," Susan tells me, her eyes narrowing.
"I am not called Queen Lucy the Valient for nothing," I retort, and Susan starts to protest but bites her lip.
"Lu, I can't," she breathes, and I touch her arm.
"Yes, you can," I tell her. "I'll be all right with Peter for a while."
She closes her eyes for a moment, and I fear she is going to break down.
"Su?" I say, and she looks at me. "It'll be all right."
Peter coughs at that moment, and I take his hand. Susan eventually hands the phial of peppermint oil to me and comes to kiss and hug me.
"Thank you dear," she whispers, and I nod, pulling the covers down halfway…Peter is much too hot. "If he starts to take a bad turn again…"
"I'll fetch Dr. Rillatus. I am capable, Susan," I insist, and she nods. Sometimes, I think, she forgets I am of the same ranking as herself. Understandable, as I am much younger…though it annoys me greatly.
"Oh…oh all right," she finally agrees, and disappears through the door. When she is finally gone and out of earshot, I slide under the covers behind Peter, allowing him to lean against me. He groans and turns his flushed face towards mine. I take his upper body and prop it into a sitting position…it is usually better this way when breathing is difficult.
"Shshhh," I soothe, as he begins to wheeze again, and massage his chest gently. He takes my hands and coughs, shifting in position a little.
"Lucy goosey," he chokes, and my lips start trembling at once…that is Peter's nickname for me. Only he can use it, without ruffling my feathers. "Are you…" he swallows painfully. "okay?"
I nod, smoothing his cheek. "Su went to rest, but I'm here, Dear Heart."
He smiles fondly. "Oh," he croaks, and I choke on a half-laugh, half-sob. "How is Ed?" he adds, giving a violent shiver.
"He's just fine, love," I promise. "Tired, but mostly unscathed. He'll take your place in court tomorrow."
Peter nods with satisfaction, before his expression turns to great pain again. "Hurts to breathe," he says, and cringes before he takes another breath.
"I know." I place another peppermint-soaked handky over his nose. "Try to blow, Peter," I encourage, for his voice sounds very thick with congestion. He does as I tell him, but nearly collapses from the effort. It is normally such a simple process, that seeing it exhaust him this way practically shatters me. I hold him close, so afraid that if I let him go, he'll leave me forever.
There is a soft knock on the door, and, startled, I look up. "Who is it?" I call, wondering who would visit at such an hour.
"It is Mr. Tumnus," a familiar voice replies, and I feel tears pricking the corners of my eyes.
"Oh, dear, do come in," I reply, and it opens slowly. My good friend awkwardly peers his head through the crack, and I smile. "Peter, is it all right if Mr. Tumnus comes in?" I ask, and my oldest brother looks at me through fever-bright eyes.
"Mr. Tumnus, sweetheart. He's here."
"Oh…" Peter gulps. "Yes."
I motion with my free hand for the faun to enter, and Mr. Tumnus does so.
"King Edmund sent me to take your place, Lucy," he said, and I open my mouth to protest.
"You need sleep, my Queen," he replies, and I feel Peter's breathing quicken a little.
"Oh don't," I beg. "Peter, there is nothing to get excited about."
Mr. Tumnus is certainly right about my being tired; I have been sitting with Edmund for the past five hours, and now I have sent Susan off to bed, with the prospect of another long sit with Peter. Of course, I do not mind at all…they are my brothers and sister, and I love them all to pieces. I couldn't just leave them. Especially not Peter, who sounds as though he is starting to panic a little.
"Calm down," I soothe as he grips my wrist, and I look at Mr. Tumnus.
"Shall I fetch Dr. Rillatus?"
I shake my head. "No," I reply. "He said he'd come by in the morning again."
"I insist, Lucy, that you go and take some rest, or you'll be confined to your own bed. That won't be any good, will it?"
I bite my lip. Mr. Tumnus narrows his eyes at me, and I sigh.
"Oh I don't…I don't know," I whisper, easing Peter back against his pillows and sliding out from under him. He gulps and closes his eyes, trying to block the pain that fills his body with each movement. "Mr. Tumnus, promise you'll only let me rest for a few hours. Peter needs me," I say, and he hugs me, patting me on the head .
"You have my word," he replies and, after kissing Peter on the cheek and promising I will be back soon, wrap my arm around my dear friend.
"Go on, then," Mr. Tumnus says, and I smile weakly, heading in the direction of my quarters.
I finally awake the next morning, to the sound of knocking on my door. "I'm coming," I croak, struggling to sit, and realize that bright sunlight is streaming through the gap in the curtains.
"Coming!" I repeat as I shuffle across the room, the knocking continuing until I pull the door open. I blink as a maid sweeps in, placing my breakfast tray on my desk.
"Sir, I am asked to inform you that you are to be present in court in half an hour."
I stare as she sweeps out again, and then immediately check the clock. "Blast!" I did not realize at all how late it was. "Damn…" I rush around the room finding my clothes, and, after pulling them on, wolf down breakfast as quickly as I can. Peter normally does not mind if I am late for court; he knows I prefer to sleep in. However, I am taking his place today, and the last thing I want to do is upset the delicate balance of our house by not taking my duties seriously.
I pass Lucy as I fly out of the room with several scrolls under my arm, and am practically out of breath by the time I reach the courtroom. Already, a crowd of our subjects are gathering, a soft murmer rustling through as they take their usual places. They notice me and silence follows. They are startled to see me alone, I know, and I feel tears starting to prick the corners of my eyes when I look at Peter's empty throne.
"Is King Peter well?" one of the faun's asks once I am seated comfortably, and I open the first scroll, trying not to panic. I look at him, and everyone's eyes are on me.
"No," I reply softly. "He is not well. We got into an accident yesterday whilst we were taking care of the dwarves at the Stone Table."
A collective gasp went through the crowd, and everyone began murmering at once.
"Quiet!" I call, and they turn to me, blinking.
"Is it serious?" Orelius steps forward—he carried Peter indoors after he'd fallen off Phillip.
I bite my lip, afraid to respond. If I agree with him, it will seem all too real. "Yes," I finally squeak. "The High King Peter is very ill. Please…pray for him, will you?" I ask, and they nod, murmering amongst themselves again.
"Is he going to die?" another faun asks, and Oreius gives him a look.
"Of course not," I say, straightening up. "Dr. Rillatus and my sisters are helping take care of him. There is no need to panic," I add, and they look at me skeptically. "But we have business to attend to here."
The group settles down at last, and I sit, starting to read from the notes I managed to take down after Lucy left me the previous night.
Barely an hour has passed since I began our session, when I see Lucy peering through the doorway. She looks terrified, and starts waving her hands to get my attention. I look at her, surprised, and realize she is crying—the tears are falling down her cheeks.
"I…" I look at Oreius, who cocks his head to one side. "I must go," I suddenly rolled up the parchment, and everyone stared. "There is an emergency. Court has adjourned," I gulp, and dash out of the room as fast as I can, grateful to get away from the crowd.
Lucy is sobbing hysterically when I reach her, and I pull her into my arms, trying to calm her down. She gulps for air with a bit of difficulty, and I help her to sit down in one of the nearest chairs. "Oh…oh Edmund," she hiccoughs, once she finds her voice. "Su—Susan begged me to find you. Peter—his asthma—he…" she covers her face, and I felt my heart stop in mid beat.
"Oh no…no," I gasp, and she takes my hands.
"I have to find my cordial," Lucy tells me, and I feel sick. "Edmund, he's unconscious…he couldn't breathe, we tried…he…Dr. Rillatus is trying everything he can think of, but it's not working, Edmund." She is shaking so hard that I am afraid she may faint as well.
"Lucy, pull yourself together," I choke. "You have to go and find your cordial. I'll go and see to Peter, all right?"
"Oh Ed," she gasps, and I encourage her to hurry off, before running as fast as I can to my brother's chambers. When I enter, I see that Peter is lying very still, his lips a bluish tint when I take a closer look. Susan is holding tightly onto his hand, sobbing softly and begging him to wake up.
"Su…" I squeak and she looks at me, biting her lower lip.
"Ed…Ed, we tried…we really…" she collapses into my arms when I get to her, and I wave a piece of parchment at her, trying to cool her down a bit.
"Su…Su, come on, this is not the time to fall apart," I say, and I look at Peter, who looks as though death has won over already. I ease Susan into the closest chair, and go to my brother's bedside. "Peter…Dear Heart, please," I beg, smoothing his forehead. "Don't do this."
Susan groans and her eyes flutter open. "What happened exactly?" I ask when she eventually comes to, and she looks at me.
"What…?" she croaks, and I look at her.
"Su, what happened?" I demand, and she gulps.
"He had a very hard night," she told me, once she gathered her bearings. "His asthma started acting up very early this morning, and the peppermint oil worked for a short while. But then around breakfast he started coughing and coughing, and oh Ed, he couldn't breathe. We tried pounding his back like we did yesterday, but that wasn't working." She took a deep breath, dabbing at Peter's forehead with a damp cloth. "He…suddenly gave a gasp and his eyes went into the back of his head, and he…he just collapsed, right before Lucy went to fetch you."
I felt my throat choking up with tears as I glanced at my brother's unconscious figure. "So he's only been out for a short time, then?"
Susan nodded, holding me close, and the two of us began to cry softly. "I told the court about his illness," I say quietly. "Oh Su, he can't die, he just can't!"
Susan hiccoughed and rubbed my back comfortingly. "Lucy should be here with her cordial soon," she breathed. "Peter will be angry that we're using it on him, but we can't afford to loose him. We just can't." she glanced over my shoulder just as Lucy dashed into the room, holding the tiny glass phial that I knew only too well.
She crawls up onto the bed, smoothing Peter's bangs away from his forehead. I move away from Susan and take his hand, which is ice cold, in mind. Dr. Rillatus comes in with a fresh basin, prepared in case Peter has to cough anything up when Lucy gives him her cordial.
"Open his mouth a little for me so I can slip it in," she tells me, and I gently pull Peter's lips apart, feeling a tad foolish. The thought of how irritated he would be if he knew we were doing any of this is enough to keep me from bursting into tears all over again.
"Come on, Lu," I say impatiently, and she eases a drop of the red liquid—red as blood—into his mouth. All four of us hold our breaths, and Lucy bites her lip, setting the phial aside and taking Peter's other hand.
"Peter…" I beg. "Oh, please don't let it be too late…"
Lucy gulps, laying down beside our brother, and we prepare for the worst.
Nearly a full minute passes before the cordial shows any sign of taking effect; Peter lets out a harsh cough, gasping for air. His eyes squeeze shut in pain, and I immediately help him sit.
"Easy," I tell him, patting his back. "Easy. you gave us all a right scare, Peter," I tell him, watching as he still coughs into a fist. Dr. Rillatus holds the basin under his head and encourages him to cough up what he can.
"Oh Peter," Lucy sobs once he coughs up a rather disgusting mouthful of phlegmn, and collapses against the pillows, panting. Susan stroks his cheeks tenderly at that point, and Lucy adjusts his covers, tears continuing to pour down his cheeks. Peter notices them, and smiles very faintly.
"H'llo," he squeaks, and I glare.
"You're a right foul git, you know that?" I snap, and he raises an eyebrow.
"Eddy…" Susan starts, and I hold up my hand in warning.
"Peter, have we not told you time and time again that you need to look after yourself? You almost died, Peter!"
He stares at me, stunned by my sudden outburst, and Susan touches Lucy's arm. "Come," she whispers. "We should let them alone for a bit."
Lucy hesitates, but allows Susan to lead her out of the room. When they are gone, I collapse upon my brother's body, holding him and sobbing softly.
"Ed," Peter croaks. "Ed, I am so sorry." He rubs my shoulder weakly, patting my head.
"Why do you have to be so…noble?" I squeak. "Why, Peter?" I know it is a stupid question, but I ask it anyway.
He merely gives me a sheapish smile, and starts to respond, but a sneeze cuts him off.
I give him a look of amusement, offering a fresh peppermint handkerchief, which he accepts gratefully. "Thanks," he croaks, and I take his free hand.
"Thank Aslan you're all right," I breathe. "Though no doubt you'll be in bed for quite some time."
Peter looks at me fondly. "Nothing important needs to be done," he says, and I chuckle.
"Even if there were, Peter, we would not let you take care of it." I cuff his cheek, and he merely laughs, though starts to cough as a result. I arm myself with the Peppermint oil, and encourage him to breathe it in when he starts to wheeze a little again.
"S-sorry," he croaks, and I shake my head.
"You need to rest," I tell him, and he swallows painfully. "I'll have some tea brought up." I pull on a little chain that rings for a servant (all of us have this device in case we are too ill to get out of bed, or need to signal each other for one reason or another. Sometimes, Lucy and I like to torture each other with "the bell" for pure fun.), and a dyrad immediately ducks through the doorway.
"Your Highness…how is your health?" she asks, and I look at her.
"We had a bit of a scare," I reply, and feel Peter squeeze my hand again. "But I think everything'll be all right. Though he'll be laid up for the rest of the week."
Peter starts to protest, and I clamp my hand over his mouth. "The rest of the week," I repeat, and the dyrad nods in understanding.
"Very good, sir. What may I get for you?"
"A fresh pot of tea," I reply, still refusing to let Peter speak.
"As you wish, sir." The dyrad curtsies low, and leaves the room.
When she is gone, I release my hand from Peter's lips, and he gives me an irritated look.
"Edmund, you do have a way of getting under my skin. You do know that, don't you?" Peter asks, and I give him the same look in return.
"Peter," I say, "you almost died! I was watching you die…" I swallow past a lump in my throat.
"Ed, don't," Peter begs as he sees the tears forming, and he immediately presses a fresh handkerchief into my hand. "you know I hate it when you do that."
"Well, it's not my fault," I whimper. "I just…I can't imagine life without you. Neither of us could. We need you, Peter."
He smiles faintly. "I know, Edmund. I am sorry," he apologizes, coughing into a fist again, and I rub his back soothingly.
"Just please please please promise me you'll stay in bed for the rest of the week," I beg. "You need to rest, and you still have a fever." I feel his forehead, and his temperature is still too high for my liking.
Silence follows my words for a moment or two, and Peter nods at last. "You have my word, my dear brother." He squeezes my shoulder, and I take his hand, clasping it tightly, and kissing it, just as Lucy peeps in.
"There is no blood shed, is there?" she asks, and both of us look at her with a laugh.
"No," I say, and she dashes in.
"Where's Su?" I ask, noticing Susan has not followed her.
"She has gone to lay down," Lucy explains. "She's very tired."
I nod. "Good," I reply. "She needs rest." I look at Peter, and he swallows, his breathing considerably calmer than before.
"Edmund, might I…have a moment?" Lucy asks me, her voice very quiet. "Might I be permitted…"
"Lu, you don't have to ask permission," Peter tells her faintly.
"Well, I just…"
"Of course, Lu," I promise, ruffling her hair, and receive an annoyed look. "Try not to be too long, will you? He needs to sleep."
Lucy looks at me and her eyes follow as I leave the room. I shut the door behind them, and I lean against the wall.
We came so close to loosing Peter…the sheer terror of seeing my brother laying there as though he were truly on his death bed makes me feel sick. I can hear Lucy and Peter's soft voices, but what exactly they are saying, I can't make out exactly.
I look up, and see the dyrad returning with the tray of tea. "Oh," I breathe, having forgotten about it. "You can just bring it in. I'll just…I'll be taking a walk around the castle if I am needed."
She curtsies low, and I hurry off, wanting some time to myself.
Nothing would have prepared us if we had to experience Peter's death…nothing. As I sit watching him sleep, I think about how incredibly lucky we are. He is still terribly weak, the pneumonia not quite releasing it's clutches on his lungs. Still, at least his asthma has calmed once again.
He shifts under the covers, murmering something incoherent under his breath, and I reach over to take his hand. "Thank Aslan you're going to be all right," I whisper, and he coughs, tightening his grip on my fingers slightly.
The rest of the week ends up being the longest we've ever spent. Peter remains in bed as instructed, and goes back and forth between good and bad spells. Not even remotely close to the near-death experience from earlier, but still…we are constantly on the alert.
Eventually, Peter is ready to get out of bed about halfway through the following week. "I really don't know about this," Susan tells him as he stands shakily. His fever has broken, thank Aslan, but he is still pale and shaky.
"We'll take it one day at a time, Su," he promises, smiling at me fondly, as Edmund makes his grand entrance.
"Take his arm, Ed," Su encourages, and the four of us lead him slowly out into the hall. Our subjects are lined down the hall waiting, and bow low when he approaches. Edmund is grinning widely as we slowly make our way towards the dining hall, where we will have our first breakfast together since the accident.
"Good morning, your Highness," Oreius greets us when we approach the end of the line.
"Thank you," Peter tells him, smiling.
"Come," I encourage, leading the way into the room, where the food is already on the table.
"Lucy," Peter laughs as I dash over to the piano, and immediately begin playing a cheerful tune. Susan grins and comes to sit beside me, while Edmund eases the High King into his chair. Mr. Tumnus joins us as our traditional breakfast guest, and speaks with Peter for a short while.
"It is good to see you looking well again at last," Mr. Tumnus tells him, and Peter smiles weakly.
"Peter, Peter, pumpkin eater, had a wife and couldn't keep her," I sung loudly, causing my oldest brother to look up from his cup of tea. I glance over my shoulder and wink at him as he shakes his head, and Susan continues to chirp along with me. "He kept her in a pumpkin shell…and there he kept her pretty well!"
He starts coughing suddenly and I stop playing the piano, turning around to watch anxiously. He waves me on, but I am up on my feet and hurrying over to the table. "Are you all right?" I ask, watching as Edmund pats his back.
"Yes," he squeaks after a few moments, and takes a good sip of tea. "Sorry, Lu," he apologizes.
"It's going to be a while before you are better, Dear," I tell him and he squeezes my hand.
"I know," he replies softly, and sees Edmund's expression of satisfaction. "Enough, Edmund," he chuckles, and Ed merely laughs.
I shake my head at the two of them, listening as Susan continues playing the piano, chirping through the words while we work through breakfast. I know we will be there for each other no matter what happens, and I have a feeling that we will have to put up with quite a bit as Kings and Queens. I lean my head against Peter's shoulder, and smile as he kisses me on the cheek.
"It will be all right, Lucy," he promises, as Susan sings: "Goosey, Goosey, gander…whither shall I wander? Upstairs and downstairs, and in my lady's chamber…"
"Eat your breakfast, Miss Goosey, before it gets cold," Peter warns, and I stick my tongue out at him playfully.
"Come on, Susan," I call, and my older sister abandons her music, coming to join us at the table.
Later that afternoon we are gathered in Peter's chambers again, snuggled down under his covers and squished together. "No one could replace you, Peter," I tell him, nearly knocking Edmund off of the bed as I move closer.
"Oy!" he cries, grabbing the dresser to keep himself steady.
"And no one will, Goose," Peter teases, ruffling my hair.
I glance over Susan's shoulder towards the window, see the clouds starting to break up in the sky, revealing a sapphire blue sky. "As long as spring comes to Narnia, you always will be," I sigh, and my other siblings agree.