"Shouldn't they be using wooden swords? Mightn't they be harmed?" worried Celer, voicing the concern of almost every officer assembled.
Oreius said nothing in return, knowing Fauns tended to brood over imagined possibilities, and withheld his judgement until he had seen more. He had assembled the finest fighters in the Narnian army to assess the fighting abilities of their new monarchs. Both kings moved with a certain grace and he could tell they would make fine swordsmen, especially King Peter. King Edmund needed more confidence. And height. And strength. But that would come with time and age. He was pleased to see that Peter had adapted his speed and technique to his brother's level of ability without being obvious. Celer's concerns were misplaced. Oreius knew the High King would never allow harm to befall his brother again.
"Hold!" he called, and instantly both boys stepped away, panting and grinning at each other. "Weapons away, Sires."
The lesson over for the day, Peter and Edmund gladly sheathed their swords, pulling off their helmets and facing the Centaur and the Faun. Both were sweating with exertion, their faces flushed and their hair plastered to their heads. Oreius motioned for one of the officers to bring them some water, knowing they preferred it to wine this early in the day.
"That was well fought, Your Majesties," he complimented, letting his gaze sweep over the pair of them. "It will take little time, I believe, for us to develop new techniques suitable to you both."
Peter opened his mouth to reply, but said nothing, clearly pondering what the Centaur could mean. Edmund cocked his head and asked, "New techniques? What about the old ones?"
Oreius smiled, pleased with their reactions and knowing they valued his greater wisdom and praise. "King Edmund, you and your brother are they only Humans in Narnia's army. Your legs are straighter than a Faun's or a Satyr's and you move with a very different action than they do. They are very upright in their stance and their armor is unlike yours."
Peter smiled his thanks as one of the female Centaurs relived him of his helmet and gloves and another Centaur handed him a goblet of water. Immediately he passed the goblet to Edmund and accepted another from her. He looked up at Oreius with a smile and said,
"I don't believe there's any comparison between a Human and a Centaur, Oreius, is there?"
"More than you'd think, King Peter. Already I can see a number of sword techniques we Centaurs use that can be adapted for you. With practice and discipline you will each find your own style of combat, and as you grow in stance and strength, your swordsmanship will grow and adapt with you."
"Grow in stance and strength," echoed Edmund reverently, with a wistful expression. He was easily the shortest one there, barring the Cheetah captain. "I like the sound of that."
Peter laughed aloud, throwing his arm over Edmund's shoulders and pulling him close. They all laughed with as much joy as relief and Oreius wondered if these two knew, truly knew, how much they and their sisters meant to Narnia. But a fortnight ago a century-long winter had ravaged the land. A week ago Oreius and three of the officers here in the courtyard had been statues of stone. And by their very presence and the strength of their love, these brothers and their sisters had broken an enchantment dark and deep and helped overthrow a sorceress that had challenged the might of Aslan himself. Would they truly ever understand? Did he want them to? Would Peter ever know why Oreius and Bellone the Rhinoceros had sacrificed themselves for him? Did they know that to Narnia, they were the very embodiment of hope?
Across from him, holding King Edmund's helmet and gloves, Celer gave him a swift look. They were thinking along the same lines if the Faun's expression was any indication.
He looked down at Edmund's dark head as the young king elbowed his brother playfully. Edmund, the traitor, who had caused so much grief. Edmund, whom Aslan had forgiven, whose place on the Stone Table he had taken. Edmund, who had disobeyed his king in order to destroy the White Witch's greatest weapon. Edmund, who sacrificed himself to save his brother. King Edmund the Just, who had learned a mighty lesson he would carry all his days.
Yes, they understood. They understood far beyond their years. And Oreius knew that he must never, never underestimate them, children though they may be.
"Oreius?" wondered Peter, his blue eyes wide with concern. He lowered his goblet while beside him, Edmund was no less anxious.
He shook himself, flicking his tail and avoiding Celer's eye. "I was lost in my thoughts a moment, Your Majesty."
"Is everything alright?"
He leaned down closer to them, letting his affection show as he placed one hand on Peter's shoulder, the other on Edmund's. "Now that you and your sisters sit on the Four Thrones, Your Majesties, all is very well indeed for myself and for Narnia." A moment later he hardened his features, their instructor once again. "Tomorrow at dawn."
They both groaned and he smacked them on their arms, knocking them together lightly.
They groaned louder, laughing now, and around them the warriors of Narnia's army laughed with them. Peter looked down at his brother ruefully.
"It's better than algebra, Ed."
"I'll take your word for it. Breakfast?" he asked hopefully.
"Definitely," Peter agreed. He looked at Oreius, his eyes bright. "Dawn, then, Oreius, with shields."
"And get some sleep tonight," Celer added.
"Tonight?" asked Edmund under his breath as they collected their helmets and gloves. "I think I could sleep right now."
Peter grinned mischievously. "Lucy and Su won't let you. Besides, you can't eat if you're asleep. Come on! Race you!"
The High King darted through the archway. Behind him, Edmund let out a disgruntled cry and set off after him at a run, shouting for him to stop.
Watching them leave the courtyard, Oreius nodded to two of the Dwarf archers and a Cougar standing guard to follow and escort them back to the palace. Beside him, Celer smiled.
"We have been blessed," stated the Faun quietly, to the approval of all who heard.
"We have indeed," agreed Oreius.