This story is a companion to and parallels my last story, "Into the West," as told from Edmund's point of view. It probably won't make a whole lot of sense without reading "Into the West" first since this starts up the day Peter departs Cair Paravel and Edmund is already laboring under Jadis' curse. All thanks should go to Almyra for inspiring me. To quote her exactly: Loved Peter's reunion with Susan and Lucy (and hugging Oreius!) and Edmund's dislike of mornings (my kind of king). And this is just a very small request, but sometime, could we see the reunion between Edmund and Phillip? I'd love that...
It started small then took on a life of its own, just like most everything I write. Enjoy.
...Who Stand and Wait
From atop Phillip's back Peter smiled down upon us, his face shining in the light of a thousand torches. Even in the plainest of clothes he was magnificent and every inch the High King of Narnia. I felt a rush of pride and love that this was my brother. I could tell he was eager to be off, eager to start this quest to save me, already aching to be home.
I knew exactly how he felt, because I felt the same way.
"I love you all very, very much," he said softly. "Stay out of trouble while I'm away."
I snorted at this typically Peterly advice, unable to let him leave without some display of temper, demanding, "And what are we supposed to do until you get back?" Staying out of trouble had been physically impossible for me since the day I had turned four and he knew it.
"Plan a navy," Peter answered as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.
I opened my mouth to reply but I couldn't come up with anything witty to say in return. Planning out a branch of the military was not what I had expected to be doing while waiting for him to return, but it was a good idea. He cast me a smile, pleased with himself for rendering me speechless, and I couldn't help but smile back. Navy? He'd come home to a bloody armada if I had my way. I felt Susan and Lucy standing close beside me and we watched as Peter turned Phillip and rode down the long avenue of torches and soldiers and loving subjects singing a hymn of creation. Oreius and Celer swept by us as they followed him and Aslan let out a mighty roar that had so much force behind it the sound seemed to penetrate and pass through my body. I watched until Peter's blond head was out of sight, tempted to run up to the highest tower in Cair Paravel to catch a last glimpse of him as he rode westward into Aslan only knew what kind of mess.
But I didn't. I felt Lucy's small hand curl into mine and I held on tightly, her presence grounding me. Susan laid her hand on my shoulder. We stood watching until the hymn was done, the last eerie notes echoing off the palace walls. Dawn was creeping over the horizon on this, the start of the first day without my brother. He hadn't been gone twenty minutes and I already missed him terribly. It wasn't so much that he wasn't here now, but that he wouldn't be here for weeks and maybe even months. I wasn't alone, not like he soon would be with only a Horse for company. I had the girls with me and Aslan and the whole of Narnia, but…I would be alone in our room at night. And only I would be reporting to Oreius and Celer every morning before sunrise. And I'd be alone with Cheroom during history lessons.
I would be sitting next to an empty throne, separated from my sisters by an expanse only Peter could fill.
Suddenly the silver crown on my head seemed to weigh a ton.
And Phillip, my closest friend in Narnia, was equally out of my grasp. Who could I really talk to now that my best friend and my brother had gone riding off? There was Aslan, of course. He understood always and everything, but ... it just wasn't the same. Not for me, anyway. I sighed, wishing I could stop the thoughts swirling through my head. What if one or both of them got hurt? What if it was too far? Or winter came? What if...what if I didn't make it? I was genuinely afraid of being left alone with my own thoughts.
They had better hurry back.
As if she could read my thoughts, Susan's hand tightened slightly on my shoulder in a reassuring gesture. The crowd was dispersing, voices rising in excited whispers as they spoke of the quest and histories and legends. Lucy looked as glum as I felt and I pulled her in close against me. I really wasn't one for displays of affection – that was Peter's role – but I could tell she needed to be held and so I kept my arm around her shoulders. We were standing in our little knot when one of the army's captains, a huge black Centaur named Kanell, came down the steps behind us.
"Majesties," he said in his deep, booming voice, bowing.
Lucy sniffed and stood up straight as we greeted him. Susan smiled her sweet, gentle, and reassuring smile. I wished it had the same effect on me it had on our subjects, because that smile seemed to make their troubles melt away.
"General Oreius and Captain Celer have requested that I take over your training until their return, King Edmund," Kanell said. I knew what this meant. Kanell was superb at fighting with two swords, something Oreius rarely let us try before we had mastered the use of just one. Perhaps this was a gift from the good general, knowing that I would be lonely without Peter and knowing I had been aching to use dual swords. Despite my anxiety at Peter's departure I couldn't help but be pleased. I smiled up at the captain, knowing I had at least a week of his instruction to look forward to.
"If you'll allow me to change, I'll meet you at the training grounds, Captain Kanell," I said.
"Half an hour, Sir Edmund," he ordered with a nod. He bowed to my sisters and I inclined my head to him, student now and not a king until I was released from my lesson.
"You'd better run," said Susan as the Centaur left.
"Take this, will you?" I handed her my crown, suddenly glad that Oreius hadn't given me a chance to stop and brood. "I'll see you at dinner."
"Don't get hurt!" Susan called after me as I ran for the barracks.
I shook my head. As if Kanell could do any worse than what had been done to me already.
There were advantages and disadvantages in being the only student on the training ground. The advantages were I received the undivided attention of Kanell and a solid hour of instruction and training. The disadvantages were I received the undivided attention of Kanell and a solid hour of instruction and training. By the time I left the courtyard I could barely move, especially my left arm. Kanell was a good teacher, but I came to see he was used to training hardened warriors, not scrawny eleven-year olds. Without Peter to take up some of his time I think I overdid it for my first day. Still, I was learning to use two swords! Maybe I could finally beat Peter when he returned.
Sweaty and worn, I dragged myself back to Peter's bedroom. Our bedroom. My bedroom now. I had moved into here a year ago under the excuse that he couldn't sleep without me close by. While that was very true - he had managed to work himself into a frenzy of anxiety our first month here in Cair Paravel - what was equally true was that I needed him just as close to sleep well, I just hid it better. I don't know how the girls managed to adjust to their own bedrooms so easily. Perhaps Lucy snored and Susan was glad to be free of the noise.
I dropped down on Peter's bed to peel off my boots. Martil came in and helped me undress, because even though my mail and armor were down in the armory, I couldn't get out of the heavy, quilted clothes underneath without assistance. Peter and I had always helped each other. Even though they're fussy and natty, valets are wonderful inventions. If nothing else Martil spared me the task of picking out appropriate clothes every day, and right now he undid the straps down my back holding the shirt closed. Normally I'd go take a bath in my own rooms. I'm not sure why I came here. I stood to unbuckle Shafelm's belt and I laid the sword on the bed. Out of the heavy clothes, I realized how hot I had been when the cooler air touched my skin. I immediately sat down again, exhausted and relieved to be free of the weight.
I had no memory of falling asleep. I just woke up to the sight of Lucy sitting on the bed beside me reading a book. I was half-dressed and covered with a light blanket and I blinked stupidly at her.
"What time is it?" I groaned. She looked up from the book and I saw of flash of worry in her eyes that was quickly hidden behind her smile.
"Almost time for tea. You slept through dinner. How do you feel?"
I couldn't move I was so stiff. Every muscle I owned ached terribly. "Not too bad," I said vaguely. "Why didn't someone wake me up?"
"Because you're so tired," Lucy explained patiently. "Silvo told Cheroom. He said to let you sleep yourself out and we didn't really have anything pressing where royal duties were concerned. There were just some bears with a dispute over fishing rights in the Muskenon River. It was very petty and Susan made them feel so guilty they all apologized and promised to share."
"Blast," I muttered, sitting up. I slowly flexed my arm. It was remarkably sore. "I don't need to be baby sat."
"No," she agreed, setting the book aside, "but you do need more rest than you've been getting. A day without lessons won't hurt, Edmund."
Try telling my shoulders that, I thought, rubbing at the stiffness in my neck.
"You're dealing with a lot," she went on.
"You're dealing with it too, Lucy."
"Maybe, but I'm not the one Jadis cursed. Now wake up. Tea is in an hour and you can't miss it. Sir Giles is going to introduce us to the vixen he's courting. You have just enough time to get ready."
An hour was just enough time? Who did she think I was, Susan? I could be ready in five minutes. Ten if Martil caught me before I reached the door and tried to do something with my hair.
"All right," I said, "I'm up, Lu. Now shove off so I can get dressed."
She laughed at the words which did not match my tone at all and I smiled faintly at her. She was the next best thing to Peter and she knew me well enough to know I was teasing her.
"And fix your hair!" she called from the doorway loudly enough for Martil to hear. That did it. Not one but two over-eager valets came to assist me and I feared that now I really would need that hour. I sighed, knowing I would be doing a lot of that in the future.
Peter had his role in this quest just as I had mine. His part was to act, mine was to endure. I understood now, truly understood, what he had meant when he said he had the easier role.
And, oh, how I missed him.