Chapter 10--Tóg Do Chroisa
A/N: Yo peeps! The name of this chapter is in Gaelic; it means "take heart". Special thanks to Almyra for the encouraging assessment of Victoria.
"What part of 'at tea time' does he not understand?" Edmund growled, sulking in a chair at the breakfast table.
Lucy, picking at the hem of her sweater, said, "Perhaps he's locked up in a closet somewhere..."
"What kind of idiot is going to lock himself in a closet?"
Susan glanced up scornfully from her book. "Don't even get me started on the time you were stuck--"
"It was the WC!" Edmund protested. "And how was I to know it only locked on the inside?"
"WC or not, it was still--"
"Anyway, I was three years old!"
"Don't let's argue," Lucy cut in. "We really should try and find him. He could have hurt himself."
"Sure. On what?" Edmund scoffed.
Lucy shrugged as she slid out of her chair. "He hasn't been acting like himself lately. He's so...distant. If he's accidentally hurt himself--"
"Right." Susan nodded and snapped her book shut. "I'll help you look. We'll check the library first."
The girls walked out of the breakfast nook. Edmund skulked behind them, mouthing, "And if he's still scavenging, I'll throttle him."
Peter crouched before a campfire, not listening to the babbling Satyrs and Moles that surrounded it. He stretched his hands out towards the fire, but they didn't warm. Frustrated, he thrust his hands directly into the flames and pulled them away quickly. He felt no heat from the fire, no pain. Just cold. His white skin showed no sign that fire had even touched it.
He chomped down on his lip, stifling an angry sob.
I can't last much longer like this.
Peter looked up from his hands. Victoria stood, a bit hesitantly, outside of the circe of soldiers about the fire. She glanced at the soldiers and said, "I wish to speak to you alone for a moment."
Taking the signal, the Satyrs and Moles migrated away from the fire. Victoria surprised Peter by sitting down, on the other side of the fire.
"I'm afraid I've been a bit harsh, sir, and that I didn't thank you properly this morning."
Peter shook his head. "Your Majesty--"
Victoria cut him off. "Seriously, I am impressed by you, sir. By your frankness, your valour. I am also indebted to you." She gazed down at her bandaged hand. "Perhaps I can ask King Lune to keep you at Anvard and help you find your parents..."
"No, please." Peter shook his head, feeling that, even if he upset her, he would have to try and tell her the truth again.
"Well then, name your pleasure. Whatever you want, then by the Lion, you'll get it."
Peter squeezed his eyes shut. He gave himself a long pause to calm himself, but when he tried to speak, the words stuck in his throat like peanut butter. Why can't you see me for who I am? he wondered silently. Why can't you find me?
"Did you speak, sir?" Victoria asked sharply.
Peter opened his eyes. "No, your Majesty."
"I thought you did." Victoria stared into the fire, and then burst out, "It's the oddest thing, sir. I hear my father's voice in my head, but not as if in a memory--as though he were actually here, speaking to me. It hurts." She shook her gold-brown head and glanced quzzically at Peter. "Why am I telling you this?"
"You don't offend me, your Majesty," Peter assured her.
"It's just--" Victoria sighed, and when she spoke again, Peter sensed a teary edge in her voice. "It's just--this time, he said, 'Why can't you find me?' And I'm trying as hard as I can to find him! I really am! I promised Mother I would!" Now her tears dropped rapidly across her face. "But under the circumstances--what with the war--I used to go to Lantern Waste and sit in a tree and think about him, and I'd feel close to him, but--"
"But still a world away." Peter finished.
"Yes," Victoria sobbed. "I--I want to be everything he was. I want to keep his legacy alive. But I'm always so scared. Even if I can stand up to Lord Arran once in a while, I still walk away feeling shy and small. I'm afraid that if Father could see me, he'd be disappointed."
"Not at all," Peter said quietly, but firmly. "Your Majesty, I, too, miss my father. Sometimes I can imagine him, coming home and being proud of me. But at night, I always see him in the war, lying dead in a battlefield." He stopped for a moment, to regain control of his voice. "But do you know--though he is miles away from me, he's with me. I don't know how; maybe in the same way that the Lion stays with us at great distances. And even if I do not have him, or Aslan, I have their love." He smiled. "I know, cliche, but--it's really the only thing that keeps me from completely falling apart."
Victoria looked as though Peter had just spun gold and given it to her. Yet she only whispered, "Thank you."
Peter nodded and again closed his eyes.
Don't you know you have my love?
"I can feel him," Victoria said abruptly. "He said, 'Don't you know you have my love'. I can feel it. His love, I mean. And Aslan's."
Peter stared at Victoria.
Was she reading his mind?
His fingers lost some of their icy chill.
Oreius picked at the leather hilt of his sheathed sword, gazing at Victoria's camp. He hoped that whoever had shot Victoria that afternoon had made peace with Aslan.
"Ah, General Oreius!" a jovial voice called behind him.
Oreius whipped about and saw Lord Arran coming behind him. "What do you want, my lord?" he asked, turning away. He tried to keep his voice polite, but stamped on the dirt with a front hoof.
"Want, General?" Lord Arran laughed, fiddling with his belt. "Why, nothing."
He was silent for a long moment. Then Oreius heard metal scraping. He looked over his shoulder--and froze. Lord Arran had drawn his sword, and now pointed it at Oreius's neck.
"Only respect--and revenge," Lord Arran hissed.
Oreius glared at Lord Arran, but he heard a noise approaching from the south that made his heart sink to his hooves.
Calormene war drums.
Victoria had fallen asleep by the waning campfire. Peter sat stiffly across from her, still too frozen to shiver. He stared at her unconscious face and remembered giving it a good-night kiss after singing her to sleep when she was a child.
How did that lullaby she'd always loved go? Forest of Dreams? The melody swirled into his memory, and he started to hum it.
"Close thine eyes, dearest heart. Mount your starry maned mare..."
"And cross yon verdant meadows of peace. Beyond there
"Sleeps the Forest of Dreams, under spells of moonlight.
"May the Lion guard thee, child. Now gallop through night."
In a hushed voice, Peter sang the second verse.
"Close thine eyes, dearest heart, and leave this day behind.
"Put away, child, thy toys, and ride onward to find...
"The great Forest of Dreams under stars far above.
"May Aslan watch o'er thee and bless thee with love."
"Your Majesty! YOUR MAJESTY!" Tumnus's frantic cry broke Peter's reverie. The Faun stumbled up, breathless and terrified. "High King! Where is Queen Victoria?"
Peter mutely pointed at Victoria, who was still asleep.
Tumnus shook Victoria's shoulder. "Wake up, my Queen! Quick!"
Groaning tiredly, Victoria opened her eyes. "Mr. Tumnus? What is it?"
"General Oreius is wounded, your Majesty," Tumnus blurted, blue eyes darting towards the south, "and Calormen comes. Six cavalries, five hundred horse each."
Victoria stared at Tumnus, trembling. Peter jumped up and spat, "How like them! Sending a surprise attack far from the battlefield!"
"We await your orders, your Majesty," Tumnus stammered.
"What orders? There are no orders!" Victoria cried, standing up in a panic. "Everyone for himself!"
Tumnus stepped back, aghast and silenced. At last, "You--we--you won't fight?"
"I won't! I can't!" Victoria started to sob, and would have run away, but Peter lunged forward and grabbed her shoulder.
"You can't just run--"
"Yes, I can! I didn't provoke this attack, they have no right to do this! I don't have to fight them! Let me go!" Victoria tried to jerk away. "I can't do this!"
Peter grabbed both of her shoulders and faced her, with all the authority he could muster. "Victoria! You have to do this! Stop running scared. Remember who you are!" he shouted. "You're Queen of Narnia. And remember who Aslan is; remember all he's done for you! Did he not save you from that assassin this morning? Did he not save you from death by letting an arrow only hit your hand? Will he not so much more save you now? Take heart! He will always be with you, even to the end of time."
I haven't talked like that in years.
Victoria's trembling and tears slowed.
"You can do this," Peter continued, still hanging on to her shoulders. "I know it."
Victoria closed her puffy eyes. When she opened them, they were the same brave, grey eyes of her father.
"All right," she said simply. "Tumnus, fetch my bow and quiver from my pavilion. Then alert my commanders as quick as you can."
"Aye, Majesty." Tumnus bolted for Victoria's pavilion.
Victoria turned to Peter. "Fly."
Peter shook his head. "I'll fight with you."
"But your family in Archenland--"
"Your Majesty," Peter sighed, "I have no family in Archenland. I'm not who you think."
Victoria glared at him. "Well then, Aslan's mane, who are you?"
"I can't tell you," Peter insisted desperately.
Victoria raised her hands and began to argue, but then she seemed to deflate. She dropped her hands. "All right. What do you need?"
"Just a sword."