12/17/08 This story has been entirely edited, added to, beta-ed and perfected! Many thanks to elecktrum for her tireless efforts assisting me in getting this story the way I had originally planned on it being. So, for your reading pleasure, I give you The Guardian! Review the chapters that you hadn't reviewed before and let me know what you think!
Disclaimer: I am merely borrowing C. S. Lewis' charming characters and world, and will eventually return them. The only thing that is mine is the plot.
Author's note: This story is set pre-, during- and post- The Last Battle. I am a first time fanfiction writer and any reviews are appreciated.
Chapter One: The Baker's Assistant
Peter Pevensie walked across the university campus after the last class of the day; History. Heading for the college dormitory he lived in during school time, Peter readjusted the strap of his book bag, lost in thought. Of all the days to be studying medieval history it would have to be the Anniversary, Peter mused, with an inner wry chuckle at the irony. Seven years ago today he had looked for the last time on the mountains and skies of his kingdom. Seven years ago Aslan had told him that he was never going back. Somehow that part had hurt more than leaving had, and the Lion's words had left a sick, empty feeling in the pit of his stomach.
He hadn't exactly lied when he told Lucy and Edmund that he would be able to bear the separation from the land that he truly called home. But even if, at the time, the idea of never going back seemed a challenge that Aslan had given his knight, the reality was a bit different.
He hadn't been able to completely hide his stab of what was almost jealousy when Lucy, Edmund and their younger cousin Eustace came bursting though the kitchen door, smiles almost splitting their faces. The first thing out of Lucy's mouth was a call for Peter and Susan to "Come upstairs with us! We have the most wonderful thing to tell you about!"
Peter didn't bother hiding his enthusiasm for news from the land he had once ruled, and he listened with rapt attention to Edmund as he and Lucy regaled him with their adventures with Caspian sailing the seas of Narnia. He felt horrible for his jealousy when Edmund had said in a small voice, "Lucy and I are not to go back again though. You were right Peter, about it somehow being easier than we would have thought."
Easier or not, Peter knew to listen closely for noises from his brother's bed for the next week or so. While Peter may have been away from his siblings for the period of adjustment, Edmund did not have that privacy, and Peter knew from experience to silently embrace his brother when the sound of the tears that came so much easier in the dark of night could be heard coming from Edmund's bed. There had been no one to dry Peter's tears and he rather preferred it that way. After all, why should he cry over one of Aslan's orders, even if it was the hardest one he had ever been asked to obey? But after the first week or so, the tears stopped and the almost noble resignation set in.
Yet for all of the resignation, every year Peter, and he suspected Edmund and Lucy, would feel a melancholy come upon him on the Anniversary, and he would simply give in and indulge himself in memories of another time and world. History class today had made things even more painful. Having to listen to the professor lecture about battles, swords and the noble age of chivalry just made Peter remember Narnia all the clearer. The comparison that could be made of Narnia and the dreary landscape Peter was walking through was hardly complimentary to his current location. To be fair the college campus was beautiful in its own way, but no sturdy English oak could compare to the walking Trees of Narnia. The food here never seemed as tasty. Most importantly the atmosphere of this world was rarely encouraging when it came to noble or kingly behavior.
Peter was broken out of his wistful thoughts by the sound of his name being called. "Peter! Oi, Peter!" He glanced over his shoulder and grinned. It seemed that no sooner was he convinced that this world could never match Narnia in any way, someone would show him how much potential Earth really had. His friend and classmate, Anthony Jones, ran breathless up to him and clapped Peter on the shoulder.
"Great Scott, Peter, what far off world are you in now! I called you nearly ten times before I managed to get your attention." Anthony doubled over, hands on his knees, wry amusement on his cheerful face.
"Oh, just thinking on what Professor Harrison was saying in history, " Peter replied, looking down at his friend, still panting beside him.
"Ugh, history. I don't care if you think that the Medieval period was one of the greatest ages of mankind, the way Professor Harrison teaches it I'm asleep before he finishes his first sentence. But that's not what I wanted to talk to you about. You have anything planned for this evening?"
"Just homework, and maybe I'll read a book later on," Peter said.
"Excellent! I know you don't have anything due for a week since you're in the same classes as I am, so you're coming with me. I have something to introduce you to." Anthony seized Peter by the shoulders and led him firmly down the street, away from the dormitory and toward the shops that were in the near vicinity of the university.
Peter sighed. "This better not be another girl... You do know that I am perfectly capable of finding a nice woman all on my own." Peter was getting tired of his friend's well-meaning but rather intrusive and heavy-handed methods of encouraging Peter's nonexistent love life.
"If you must know," Anthony said with an offended, haughty tone. "The baker down the street has several new wares that I thought might interest you, but if you are unwilling to sample the new fruit breads and breakfast rolls, then I will go alone."
Peter smiled at his friend's antics and easily apologized for being snappish.
"That, and the baker's new assistant is really pretty, and I promised I'd introduce you to her," Anthony said almost casually. "She says that she's waiting for, and I am quoting, 'a Knight in Shining Armor.' I offered myself, but she took one look and said that my armor was rusty and I was no knight."
In spite of himself, Peter laughed and nudged Anthony with his shoulder playfully. "I haven't even met her and I already admire her perceptiveness! She had your character spot-on!" Anthony was known throughout the campus for his ability to have a new girl on his arm every week. How he managed to do it without angering any of the girls was a mystery that fueled more than one betting pool.
Anthony mock glared at Peter and continued. "Since she was less than impressed with my knightly credentials I told her about you, my noble-visaged friend, and she said that she was willing to see if I was truthful in my descriptions."
Peter stopped and looked his friend in the eye. "Anthony, I hope you haven't built me up into some kind of noble hero to this girl, because I'm no such thing."
Anthony raised both eyebrows. "'No such thing'? Peter, you could be dropped in the Middle Ages and within a year you'd be knighted by some great king. Should you ever decide to act, the only parts you could successfully play would be Caesar, Henry the Fifth or some other great hero." Anthony stopped and suddenly became serious. "You're the best of us all, Peter, and you don't even realize it." Peter looked away, uncomfortable. Did his Narnian behavior leak so dramatically into his life in England? It was hard to live in a way that let him remain true to the standards he expected of himself and still manage to not attract unwelcome attention. "Makes a fellow feel positively insufficient, " Anthony continued in another lighting-fast mood change.
Peter looked around for a change of subject. "Is that the bakery?" he asked, pointing across the street at a modest store with a bright awning and an open door.
"That's the one," replied Anthony, also grateful for the change of topic. He entered the shop, drawing Peter in behind him. Upon entering the bakery, Peter stopped, closed his eyes and inhaled. The smell of fresh baked bread lingered in his nostrils like the memory of the first day of spring after a long winter. There was no one behind the counter, but noises from the back room indicated that the shopkeeper was still present.
"Leona! Are you here?" called Anthony. Peter looked around at the various pastries and breads for sale, while his companion started up his matchmaking. Peter had been in the shop before, its convenient location making it the prime option for a quick lunch or snack. He saw in a corner of the shelves a row of fruit breads and some new pastries that made his mouth water. He mentally tallied his money and wondered how much he could take back to his room.
"Peter, meet Leona!" came the introduction from behind Peter. Startled, Peter whirled around and saw for the first time the girl that had so easily seen through Anthony's flirtatious manner.
She was about Peter's age, short enough that he could have easily rested his chin on the top of her head, attractive, with a slightly olive complexion that hinted at foreign blood, dark hair and hazel eyes. Peter noticed as he reached for her hand to shake, that she had flour in her hair and smudged across her face.
"Hello," he said, to which she also responded, "Hello."
"See what I mean, Leona? Is he not noble? A true Knight in Shining Armor! The epitome of chivalry!" Anthony enthused. Peter got more than a bit irritated at Anthony's manner. He was no horse to be shown off to whomever was interested! He had worked far too hard to live up to the standard expected of a knight to be mocked like this!
"He is indeed noble featured, but do his actions match?" the woman, Leona, said, speaking to Anthony but still looking at Peter. Then in a smooth motion she swept her skirts out in an elegant curtsy, still looking at Peter.
At first this action made Peter even more irritated, as often happens when someone is in a bad mood and feels as though they are being made fun of. Then he looked in her eyes and saw, not mockery, but challenge. Prove that you are as noble and chivalric as your friend claims, the look said. Show me that you are a true gentleman.
His chin came up and his irritation fled. This was something he could handle. He had never backed down from a challenge, declared or otherwise, either as a boy in England or a king in Narnia. Matching Leona look for look, he bowed in the old Narnian manner, never breaking eye contact, with one hand behind his back and the other sweeping out in front of him. Feeling that he could do much better than a simple 'hello', he said, "Gentle lady, pray allow me the honor of your acquaintance."
Anthony gave a great shout of excited laughter, but Leona's face broke into a delighted smile, and she took the hand he offered her and rose to her feet. "That you may, my lord. That you may." Peter grinned back, feeling more content and less homesick for Narnia than he had felt in years.
"Now, for business," Leona said. "Is there anything you'd like to get?" The men immediately started gathering treats to buy and take home, Peter heading straight for the fruit breads.