Notes: Here it is! The long-awaited Edmund chapter! If you haven't already, open up a new tab and pull up "Imperfection" by Skillet, and play it while you read this chapter. (On repeat if you like.) It's the exact inspiration for my perspective on Edmund's internal battle. This fic also addresses the question...did Edmund ever find out what Aslan did for him? I examined PC and VDT carefully for clues, and came to the following conclusions.
Rating: T for violence and some disturbing imagery. I was even creeped out as I was writing it. (No incest or sexual content.)
The whole day of the coronation felt like a dream to me – a golden haze of flurry and splendor and constant congratulations and paws to shake and worshipful eyes to meet with a smile. The clearest memory I have of that day is the wild honeyed taste of the cordial that still lingered on my lips, undiminished by the many feasts served since the day of the battle. In the journey between that terrible night and our coronation at Cair Paravel, I caught several of the Beasts and Fauns licking their lips – always the ones who had been severely injured that day – and I would touch the spot on my side where there should be a wound and wish that I could trade the restoration of my body for just a drop of forgetfulness.
So yes, the day we began our reign was a welcome blur and my smiles that day were genuine, and I could look my brother and sisters in the face for the first time in ages.
It was the night that was my hell.
I stumbled into my room after the dancing and revelry and clamorous music of the evening had drawn to a close. The wine added to my haze – I was not used to drinking anything like that before, even the gentle spicy warmth of Narnia's wine – and the quiet of my fire-lit chamber was a relief. However the room felt uncomfortably warm, so I went to the alcove at the far end and threw open the casement, before falling into the luxurious depths of the bed.
It was then that I heard the music – the piercing otherworldly strains of melody that were utterly different from the rhythmic instruments and earthy folk tunes of the Narnian musicians in the dance hall. I could make out no words, simply keening swells of voices that rose and fell over streams of hushed melodies. It seemed to twist and coil in the air, not at all like proper music should simply be heard, rippling in waves of nearly visible breaths, as if a ghostly chorus of echoes was singing it into existence. I trembled uncontrollably at its eerie sweetness and pulsing seduction, feeling the strains take possession of my motionless form. I would later discover that it was made by the sea people, but that night I knew nothing of its origin or meaning, simply that it made every memory of the past weeks rise up in painfully clear precision.
I remembered the sickening addiction of the Queen's food. The cold – so cold, cold, would it always be cold? – that sank in and chilled me from the inside out. And most of all, the greed and arrogance and jealousy that made me betray my brother and sisters for the chance to become her Prince, her slave.
I pride myself on my reserve and control. But it is the honest truth that in the darkening glow of the dying fire I wept uncontrollable tears of shame, rage, helplessness, shaking with the irreversible realities of what I had done. How easily I came to give up my own blood, the brother who had been my protector and idol, the sister who always looked after my well-being like a second mother, the sister who loved me so ferociously and unthinkingly that she forgave me instantly when I deceived and betrayed her the first time. What did I do with that love, that trust? I took advantage of it to lead my family to the jaws of evil, hoping to give them over to the Witch and certain torture and death in exchange for power and wealth. And by the laws of Narnia, I should have given myblood, traitor's blood, to pay for my treachery. And the worst of it was that I never even stopped to think of all this when I told those terrible lies to Lucy and Peter and Susan – I was blinded by my headlong lust to prove that I was better than them.
I dreamed that night the same nightmare I had had for the past four nights: the Witch's werewolves had caught them at the Beavers' house. I was Prince, terrible and cold and vile, but first and foremost a puppet of the Witch's harrowing will. And I tortured them, making them suffer as I had suffered at their hands, inflicting actual wounds for every verbal wound they had left on me. The Witch smiled at me, her icy cruel smile, and commanded me to kill them slowly, one by one, sparing no iota of pain before they died. I did as she said.
It was a rough way to start as King. I had to pretend that everything was peachy, sitting with my siblings at the wide wooden table over breakfast (cold meat and pudding and candied fruits left over from the feast) and acting as though I had not just dreamed of killing them after successfully betraying them (as I had tried) to the Witch. Of course Aslan had already left; (if Mr. Beaver told me one more time that He was "not a tame Lion" I was going to decommission his dam) and I could not confide my torment to anyone. Not that I would have if I could, for I am and have always been an exceedingly private person, but the inescapability of my dishonor was a profound burden over the early days of my reign.
I briefly considered discussing it – a very small part of it – with Tumnus, for he was the only person in Narnia I knew who might understand how I felt. The only one who was not thoroughly and invariably good – and after all, he had been nearly as much of a conspirator with the Witch as I had. I held back, reasoning that I had no wish to hurt the Faun with reminders of his own near-treachery. But ultimately, it was my reticence to expose myself to scrutiny and disgust that shut my lips.
Reports pored in of dark things in the forests beyond the castle – stragglers from the Witch's army – and we spent those first few weeks hunting Hags and Goblins and Cruels and Ogres. I quickly found that the heat of battle made it easy to forget the demons that haunted my memory, and so is it any wonder that I leapt at every chance to pursue the foul things that beset Narnia's realms? And I was extremely good at killing them. Something seemed to take over my body when I entered into combat, and I abandoned all forms of proper swordsmanship and simply made it my goal to sink a blade into every monster I saw. And I did. Then I would return to Cair Paravel, and darkness would descend once more.
I dreamed the nightmare again. This time I stabbed Peter with a dagger made of ice, watching as bit by bit he froze and splintered and finally shattered into a thousand fragments.
"Edmund, honestly. You've got to eat," Susan scolded, pushing the platter of bacon and bread toward me and my empty plate. "You'll faint right off your horse from hunger."
"Stop it!" I groused. "I ate in my room. I'm not hungry. And I've never fallen off a horse in my life."
"Want to try it today?" she retorted. "Right into a gaggle of Boggles and Spectres? That'd be rich. Eat."
"Lay off, Su!" I said, and sprung up from my seat so abruptly that everybody stopped talking of the best way to dispatch a Boggle and stared at me. "I can take care of myself! I'll pack some extra rope to tie myself on! Just leave me be!"
I left the dining hall barking orders for all the things we would need on our monster-hunting mission – plenty of swords, horses, anti-haunting spellbooks – and hoped that none of my siblings would pry any further.
Please Aslan, let me not dream the dream tonight.
That night it was Susan who died. I took away her coat – that's what she gets for always telling me to put mine on – and chained her to the frozen statues in the courtyard and left her there in rags for the night. Then I set Maugrim and his pack loose, and listened from the bowls of the castle to the sounds of their growls and snarls as they feasted on their prey.
"What's wrong, Edmund?" asks Lucy. Oh Lucy, don't ask me that. You don't want to know.
"Nothing," I answer, because there is no other answer I can give her. I already told you I'm sorry, didn't I? As if that even came close to making up for what I did to you.
I knew what I would dream that night. I wish I could forget the sight. The Witch had thrown me in the dungeons to patrol its depths and find the prisoners who had rotted to death in the cavernous ice cells. I found plenty of carcasses that used to be various Narnians – talking Rabbits, Stags, Fauns – and dealt with them with practiced ruthlessness. And I had forgotten about the last cell on the left and what – who – I had put in there so many wintry nights before. And there was where I found the little skeleton, curled up pathetically with tiny forearms wrapped around its rib bones in a fruitless search for warmth. Its head was still covered with a crown of soft golden hair, and scraps of gray woolen playclothes clung to its child-sized frame. And I – and I….
I woke up that morning wishing for death.
"There have been more reports, Sire. This time of greater numbers of Hags and Weres who are assembling in the wilds of the North. They have been setting fire to the Narnian borders, and calling upon the river gods to flood and provoking the trees to rebel. Please my lord, we must take swift action!"
So it was finally coming true. The Witch had foretold what would happen if the blood of a traitor was not forfeit. And now all of Narnia would perish in fire and water for what I had done…and for what I had not given.
Outside in the courtyard, I heard the clank of swords clashing together and metal armour scraping. It was Peter and the weapons master, along with several of the newer members of the guard from both Narnia and Archenland, training as they did weekly in preparation for the next combat with the remnants of the Witch's army. I should be with them, honing my pathetic forms beside Peter's natural gift of swordsmanship, but instead I hid in the armoury where there was no-one nearby to scrutinize or pierce me with their gaze, wondering what was exactly so Just about Narnia's younger King. There was nothing Just about the inevitability of their innocent lives being lost to pay for my treachery.
My fingers touched the hilt of one of the many fine daggers hung in oiled leather sheaths along the wall. She always carried one made of stone, whose jagged ancient-looking shape had struck me with inexplicable terror, and I had felt the point of it on my throat more than once.
The Deep Magic required my blood…the blood of a traitor. And it had not gotten it.
It took only a moment to draw the knife from its sheath and bring the razor-thin blade to my wrist. Although the hand that held it trembled, I knew what must be done for the Law to be fulfilled and Narnia to be saved. And as I felt the tip of the dagger pierce my skin and drag along the surface, I closed my eyes and prayed…
An enormous roar filled my ears and knocked me to my knees. I dropped the dagger and fell with my face to the stone floor. I was trembling both with fear and with hope, for there could be no doubt that He was here. I felt warm breath on the back of my neck.
"Son of Adam," came that wonderful, terrible rumble. "What have you done?"
"Aslan, YOU know what I've done. You know what she said had to happen for the Deep Magic to be appeased. Narnia will perish unless my blood is shed…and I won't let that happen, I won't, I won't! Just let me do this for Narnia, I beg you. For Peter. And Susan. And Lu- Lucy…" I could feel hot rebellious tears slip underneath my eyelids and race down my cheeks, mimicking the trickles of blood that traced across my wrist.
"I know the Deep Magic.," said Aslan solemnly. "I was there when it was created. And I know the Deeper Magic which the Witch did not. Rise, Son of Adam, and behold."
I drew myself upright and kneeled before the great Lion. He shook his mane and lifted his head high, presenting the golden fur of his neck for me to see. And there, on the crest between his front legs was a jagged white scar. I knew the shape of its serraded edge.
"Aslan," I whispered. "Please tell me what happened."
"The Deeper Magic was fulfilled," said Aslan, and he lowered his head again. "I gave my blood willingly in exchange for yours. The Witch believed that a traitor must die for the Deep Magic that makes up the very fabric of Narnia to endure. That was the extent of her knowledge. For the Emperor-beyond-the-Sea has woven many Deeper Magics into Narnia's creation. And the fulfillment of this Deeper Magic – that a willing substitute for a traitor will cause the Stone Table to crack and reverse Death itself – is what has saved you, and Narnia, from her claim."
I could not believe my ears. All this he had done…to pay for my treachery. "And you truly died? At the Witch's hand? Why would you do that for a little rat like me?"
"This too was written on the Stone Table, in a script too ancient for even the Witch to understand. It was the reason the Emperor sent me across the Sea, before Time began."
I was in a state of shock. I had read of Narnia's histories, the thick tomes detailing the creation of the world when Aslan sang Narnia into existence, when King Frank and Queen Helen first began their rule, and when a cruel Queen from another realm had tried to bring evil into the newly born world. It had been hundreds, perhaps thousands of years from now, and in comparison to the extent of Narnian history I was just a tiny speck, an ant on the page of its vast chronicles. It simply was inconceivable. "I don't understand how you could have made that trade. I am nothing, just…worthless compared with you. Narnia needed you. They don't need me."
Aslan let out a low roar that made the floor shake with its reverberation. "That too is one of the Magics of Narnia," he said. "The prophecy calls for two Sons of Adams and two Daughters of Eve. The number cannot be lessened. Your death would condemn Narnia to the very fate you fear for it."
My shock was audible. "I - I never thought...oh Aslan. I'm so sorry. I mean, that's not enough – not even close to enough – I'm just – so sorry, so sorry Aslan…"
"Hush child," he growled. "You have been forgiven. There is no need for further despair. All has been done. Remove the last curse of the Witch from your heart and take your place as rightful King and ruler, Edmund the Just."
He bowed his head until his nose touched my shoulder, and I felt courage and strength that had nothing to do with my own doing rush into me like a roll of thunder. I vowed that I would.
But first, I had to fulfill my proper duty as a Knight of the order of the Lion. I picked up the dagger and carefully wiped it clean of my blood. For Aslan demanded a clean sword that can be drawn swiftly and without tarnish or rust, and I could not leave his instrument diminished.
I stood up and presented to Aslan for inspection. He was gone. Vanished. Not a tame Lion, after all. I shook my head. I still felt his breath and his courage flowing through me. I strapped a scabbard onto my waist and plucked a sword from the wall – I had no Rhindon, but I had no need to match Peter either – and plunged it into the sheath. Then I threw open the doors of the armoury, and light came pouring into its shadowy corners.
Author's Notes: Well, there it is! Six years in the making! Thank you to everybody who has read, commented, favorited, and followed. Hope you like the conclusion, and if it provoked any kind of emotion or response from you, please let me know and leave a comment! I treasure each one and really want to know what you thought. Or requests for the next story? Anyhow, thanks for the journey!