I don't own Narnia or the Pevensies. I only find that now, the people around me groan if I so much as mention them.
Author's Note: Gift fic for Hadrianna, reviewer number four hundred of "The Sea and the Siblings." I know I actually wrote number five hundred before this, but writing this required that I read "The Horse and His Boy," which took me a while because I hate to locate the various pieces of my ancient copy and tape them together. My apologies, Hadrianna, I hope the length makes up for it somewhat. This is about twice as long as any of the other gift fics. And if anyone so much as connects the word "unoriginal" with my title...I'll um...I don't know. Cry or something.
What Happened in Tashbaan
There were a lot of things that made Calormen different from Narnia, and most of these things were not to Peter's liking. He didn't like the climate, for one; the air was too hot and dry and not at all like the refreshing breezes that blew about Cair Paravel. He didn't like how many people there were, and how most of those people seemed to be just barely surviving while the rest lived in luxury. On his first day in the city, he had seen children with arms like sticks and feasts for twice as many guests as were invited, women begging on the dusty roadside and silk gowns heavy with jewels. He didn't like most of the customs (he certainly wouldn't have liked to live forever, and failed to see how the Tisroc could wish for such a thing). But this had to be the last straw, he thought angry as he stood frozen in the hallway, the voices of the prince Rabadash and his sister Susan muffled by the door.
Pressing his ear against it, Peter felt his hand creep to his sword as he listened more. The poison honey in the prince's words made his blood boil. How could Susan possibly think this man sincere?
"My love, my goddess, my angel," Rabadash was saying. "Have I not waited long enough? You know as well as I that love such as ours could never be questionable. Why then do you tease me so? How much longer must we wait to be wed, my dove?"
"Dearest Rabadash," said Susan, and Peter gratefully noticed that she was sounding slightly exasperated. Her next words were carefully chosen. "Your flattery will not sway me, for though I am most deeply enamored with you, I cannot make such an important decision until I have held council with my family. Give me but a few more weeks and you shall have your answer."
Rabadash's next words were chosen with equal deliberation, and Peter's fingers curled around his sword hilt as he heard the slightest trace of menace in the Calormene's voice.
"In Tashbaan, a woman would not toy with a man as you do, Queen Susan," he said.
"I mean no offense," said Susan evenly. "All I ask is that you allow me time to come to a more certain position on the matter."
"The Tisroc (may he live forever) is already most displeased with your stubbornness, my lady," said Rabadash threateningly. "I should not want to risk his discontent if I were you."
"If the Tisroc disapproves of my actions, Prince Rabadash, then his quarrel is not with me but with my country, for I am acting upon the principles of my family and my homeland."
Rabadash heaved a sigh, and Peter's lip curled in disgust at the wheedling tone he used next.
"Is there nothing I can say to make you reconsider, my sweet?"
"I am afraid not, good Rabadash." Peter smiled. The look quickly dropped from his face at what followed.
"Then if words will not sway you, I must use deeds," snarled Rabadash. There was the sound of ringing metal, and Peter needed no second bidding. Pulling the heavy door open so fast it flew over and smashed into the wall it was hinged to, he drew his own sword and charged into the room. There was the prince, the snake, the…
Peter's less-than-polite thoughts were cut off as his mind spun to face the more important situation – Rabadash had his scimitar out, brandishing it towards Susan, who had her head held high and her back stiff and straight. Both looked over at Peter's intrusion, and the former turned away from the Queen to face the newcomer.
"Is this a habit of all barbarian royalty?" growled Rabadash. "Listening in at doorways? Your manners are less than satisfactory, King Peter."
Peter tightened his grip on his weapon.
"Is this a habit of all Calormene princes? Threatening Queens into marriage?" he countered.
"What I do, I do for love. Queen Susan is my light, my life, my everything. Her beauty is the star that…"
"I have no use for flattery," interrupted Susan, and suddenly her words were icy. Both men glanced at her, surprised. She met Peter's eyes meaningfully. "The ship has already been prepared. We will leave within the hour."
"Treachery!" cried Rabadash. "Already you had plans to flee, even after the hospitality shown to you by the people of Tashbaan!"
"Hospitality?" mused Susan, taking a few steps towards Peter. "In the past few days you have been nothing but threats and ill wishes concealed by false courtesy. Yes, I planned with our brother Edmund and our council to escape your stifling city and return to my homeland. I did so because it became clear to me that if I delayed any longer, you would do as you attempted to do now, and force me to become your bride, then wife, then slave. I am a free woman, Rabadash. You would do well to remember that."
"You are mine!" screamed Rabadash, his face turning a horrendous shade of purple. He started to make an advance but Peter stepped between his sister and the prince, the lines of his face hard and his blue eyes darkened.
"When I returned from war in the north, I did not expect to do battle in the south," he said warningly. "But if you continue to make threats against my sister, I shall have to do something I did not expect."
Susan placed a worried hand on his shoulder but he fixed her with an authoritative look and took up a fighting stance.
"Brother, I am certain we can…"
"Go to the ship, sister, and spread the word that we set sail now. I will join you as soon as I can. If I do not return within a half hour, depart without me."
"I command you to stay!" shrieked Rabadash. "In the name of Tash the Inexorable, you will remain here and become my wife!"
"Cease this childishness!" commanded Peter before turning again to Susan. "Go now, Susan, and I will deal with the prince."
She squeezed his shoulder one last time before hurrying away. Rabadash lunged towards her but Peter stepped in the way, raising his sword to deflect the prince's blade, and the Calormene gave a howl before swinging his sword in an arc. Peter blocked it easily and the two began to duel. It was quite obvious who was the better swordsman, but it was also quite obvious that Peter did not wish to harm his opponent – he merely was looking to hold him at bay until the time came. After less than ten minutes of fighting that mostly consisted of Rabadash taking frenzied swings and Peter calmly defending himself, the Calormene was breathing heavily and his already poor aim was growing worse. Finally he thrust his blade forward, had it easily deflected, and collapsed onto the floor in a panting heap.
"My father, the Tisroc (may he…live forever, will…" he wheezed, glaring up at Peter. "He will…bring great suffering upon the people of Narnia for such…"
"Save your breath," said Peter curtly. He looked down upon Rabadash with contempt, sheathing his sword. "We take our leave now. If you ever threaten to bring harm to my family again, you will find me less charitable than I am at the moment. But since I can't have you letting everyone know we're about to leave, and I obviously can't trust your word, I'm going to have to either render you unconscious or bind and gag you. Which would you prefer?"
"In the name of Tash, you will…will be punished…" Rabadash panted. He took a feeble swipe with his sword as he continued. "I will slay your brother, and your sisters will become…concubines in the…"
He never finished the sentence, for Peter had opted for his first option, and struck the prince over the head with the hilt of his sword. With one clean blow the Calormene toppled over onto the carpet, his eyes rolling before they shut and he slipped into a temporary slumber. Peter turned on his heel and left the room, hurrying down the hallway and hoping no one stumbled across Rabadash before he had a chance to reach his ship. He had no doubt that Calormen would be furious at the disgrace of its crown prince but when it came to his family, there was no other option. The weight of his actions began to press down upon him as he strode out through the palace gardens and back into the city.
By the time he neared the dock, he knew he had been discovered. There were armored men trailing a fair distance behind him, looking agitated and pushing through the crowds. Increasing his pace, Peter made a beeline for the long dock that ran parallel to their ship, the Splendour Hyaline. As he grew closer, he could see familiar faces up above him; when he set foot on the wooden portion that ended the mainland and marked the marina, Sallowpad the Raven swept down to fly by his head, saying urgently,
"Your Majesty, you are being followed."
"I know this," he answered, now walking so fast he was nearly running. Sallowpad swooped around his head, wings beating powerfully as he glanced back at their pursuers.
"We are prepared to set sail, Highness, we wait only for your arrival," he said.
"Good. Fly back and tell them to cast off," Peter ordered, chancing a look behind him. The guards were now forcibly shoving people out of their way, sprinting towards him and yelling things like "stop the barbarians" and "arrest that man." He broke into a run as the raven soared up back over to the ship. Finally he reached the gangplank and hurried up it, jumping down onto the deck of the Splendour Hyaline and quickly turning back around to grasp the edge of the plank. He struggled with it for a moment, trying fiercely to lift the heavy wood and prevent the guards from following them, before there was suddenly someone beside him. The two flipped it easily and as it crashed back down to the dock, he turned to see the solemn face of his younger brother.
"Susan says you asked us to leave without you should you take too long," Edmund said instantly, accusingly. "I should hope you knew that if you had told me such a thing, I would have slapped you."
"I am glad to see you as well, brother," said Peter bemusedly. He pulled his protesting sibling into a tight hug as the ship creaked and began to move out into the water. The dock was suddenly filled with guards, waving their swords and shouting curses at the Narnians, but it was far too late, they were plowing out to sea and couldn't be stopped. Edmund disentangled himself from Peter's embrace, giving him a sour look before he disappeared down below deck.
Sighing, Peter stood at the prow and leaned on his elbows, the wind tousling his hair. Finally the sounds of Tashbaan grew faint and the breeze grew fresher. Still, he couldn't quell the sinking feeling inside himself. There would certainly be repercussions for his actions.
"Peter?" asked a timid voice. He looked up. Susan stood behind him, hands folded in front of her, looking worried.
She came over to stand by him, leaning against the railing just as he had done. There was a moment of silence before she spoke.
"I just wanted to say…thank you," she said at last.
"It was nothing. Rabadash is less than a terrific swordsman," he replied evenly. She gave him a look, the kind that only Susan could give, the look that went straight through you and said "who do you think you're fooling?"
"No, Peter, it wasn't nothing," she said. "It wasn't about Rabadash or about a swordfight. I'm sorry."
"I should have been able to see through him. It was foolish to think he could ever have been the man for me."
"There is no use dwelling on that now," he sighed. "Now it is my actions, not yours, that will have the more dire consequences. I must alert Anvard. I suspect Calormen will march before the day is out."
Susan touched his arm comfortingly.
"I am still sorry, brother," she said. "I am sorry you were forced to such actions."
"It was not forced," said Peter. "I fear now that I acted too much in anger. I am sure there was a way, without sparking such violence between Rabadash and me, but I let my rage cloud my judgment. If war comes to Narnia, it shall be my burden in the whole. You bear no part of the responsibility."
"You acted as Aslan would have wanted, I am sure. You only wished to preserve my honor, and for that I am grateful," said Susan earnestly.
"No, I do not regret my actions, and I would gladly die to save your dignity, sister, but it is not so easy to wish others to die."
Sighing, Susan leaned up against Peter's shoulder and pressed a brief, sisterly kiss to his cheek.
"I am still sorry. But know that whatever comes to pass, you have my love and my gratitude," she said.
The ship moved swiftly on, back towards Narnia and Cair Paravel and home. Peter glanced down at his younger sister before looking back out to sea, the dancing waves reflecting the color of his troubled gaze. But letting out a long breath, he allowed himself to stop worrying for the moment. After all, they were safe, and going home, and he could not have wished for much more.