Okay. This goes out to all my Luffs! To SubOrbital and Elecktrum for their awesome (and useful!) advice, not to mention for kicking my butt into gear with getting this out. And a big thanks for Wiffle (Shauna) for her help with names and the title! I hope everyone enjoys and don't worry...I actually have quite a bit of this written in advance!
Mourning Hill: Hawking Lessons
The weather was warm and peaceful, and the woods were alive with the sounds of animals. Springtime's foothold on Narnia was finally giving way to Summer, and new flowers and life were blooming left and right. Orieus breathed deeply, taking the scent of flowers he had never before known. There was a certain kind of flower that grew in these parts of the woods with bright yellow blossoms on vines that curled their way up the tree trunks, giving the most wonderful smell. Although he had been born after the Witch had imposed her winter, something about these flowers called to the ancient part of him, like some old friend whom you hadn't seen since you were but a child.
Summer was also bringing with it calm, still days, perfect for teaching a hunting lesson or two. (Of course, it was also bringing some rather nasty storms, and though one was definitely on its way, it seemed a ways off yet.) As such, Orieus had decided that instead of another day of fighting practice, he'd let his two young monarchs ride out and teach them a thing or two about hawking.
So far it had turned out to be a wise decision, as the two Kings were having a decidedly large amount of fun. The first few hours were learning all the basics, but by now he had consented that they could actually start using the birds themselves. He glanced over at Edmund, who was under the patient tutelage of Zaurus, another centaur whom Orieus had grown up with. The younger King was biting his lip, brow furrowed in frustrated concentration as the hawk refused to budge from his arm until he got the motion just right.
Peter, on the other hand, seemed to have it. Orieus stepped up beside him, watching as the bird flew from his arm, and disappeared into the trees.
"That's it, Majesty," he said quietly, "Now just wait."
Peter nodded once and scanned the trees, giving his horse a pet as he did so. The pair waited quietly, listening to both the forest and Edmund behind them (who was now swearing under his breath, and being rebuked for it by Zaurus,) and scanning the trees; it shouldn't take long, as the hawk was only to circle and come back.
Of course, Orieus saw the bird coming back before Peter, but soon the boy straightened in his saddle and reached his arm out.
"Just as I showed you…"
But the bird had already landed softly on his outstretched arm. Peter stroked the hawks wings before turned to Orieus, grinning widely. Orieus couldn't help but return it; the boy had the most contagious smile.
Just then, a rather grumpy looking Edmund lead his horse up next to his brother's.
"I see you managed." He grumbled.
"Oh, c'mon, Ed." Peter said, arm drooping a bit under the weight of the bird, "Just give it ago. Try not trying so hard."
Edmund raised an eyebrow, but sighed and, giving the bird a long-suffering look, jerked his arm upwards.
The hawk immediately took off into the trees, leaving Edmund staring after it, mouth agape. It quickly turned into a giant smile as the bird flew a tight circle, and came back to land on his arm.
"I did it! I did it! Peter, did you see-" Edmund suddenly straightened, and composed himself, "I mean, ah, I got it. Yeah."
"Yeah, Ed, you got it." Peter said, hiding a chuckle.
Orieus shared a look over their heads with Zaurus, who shook his head. They just didn't have the heart to tell them that they were using talking hawks.
"Your Majesties," Zaurus said, "Darkness is coming soon. We should be on our way back."
"But I only just got it!" Edmund said, looking put-out, "Can't we stay just a bit longer?"
"Many of the Witch's minions are still lurking, Sire. It would not be wise to stay."
Peter was looking thoughtfully at his brother. He turned to Orieus, still holding his hawk aloft.
"Come on, Orieus, a bit longer." He said evenly, "We've barely left the Cair in weeks. Besides, there's a lovely breeze."
"It is getting late, Sire. And that lovely breeze means a storm is blowing in…" Orieus paused. Peter was giving him that look. That one that only he and little Lucy could do. That one where he used his eyes and made a face that made him look ten times more innocent that he probably was. Orieus hated that look- mostly because it worked each and every time.
Orieus sighed, "I…suppose a bit longer couldn't hurt. But we will be getting back soon."
Peter grinned, "It's a deal, then."
Zaurus made a face, but said nothing, turning his attentions once again to Edmund. The Kings, at least, seemed happy to take full advantage of the time given to them. Orieus pawed impatiently at the ground as Peter had his hawk take flight again, watching it sail again into the dense forest. A storm was coming, and those that blew in from over the Easter Sea always came swiftly.
He turned as Peter started laughing at something Edmund had said, who was once again looking indignant. Zaurus, too, was smiling bemusedly and steadying the younger boy's arm. Orieus folded his arms and watched; the two never ceased to amaze him. They had grown so much in just a few months and he could still recall watching Peter march up to him, holding his new sword aloft, asking to see Aslan. Even though he had known all along, at that point it had yet to really sink in that this person, this child was to lead the army against the Witch. But the youth had proven his worth, as had his brother, and Orieus was sure they would both turn into great men.
The centaur looked down, jerked from his thoughts by Peter's voice. He still had a few inches to go before he'd be eye-to-eye with Orieus on a horse.
"My apologies, Sire, I was just…thinking."
"No apologies," Peter said, "I was just…my hawk isn't coming back. Is there a way to call it?"
Orieus looked up and scanned the trees, brow furrowing. Evrae, the hawk, was told to just fly in a circle and return. The pair had been doing a splendid job…why stop now? He looked over and saw Zaurus scanning the trees as well, and Frevae, the other hawk, still on Edmund's arm.
While he didn't want their Majesties to know they had been using talking hawks, an ill feeling was creeping into the back of his mind; swift action would be the best course.
"Frevae, see if you can find Evrae. Bring him back."
"Yes, sir." The hawk replied, taking off from Edmund's arm and disappearing into the canopy.
Edmund rounded on Zaurus.
"They were talking hawks!?"
The other centaur merely gave an apologetic look before turning his attentions back to the darkening skies. He could hear rain spattering on the trees high above, and soon enough, he too was getting wet. Orieus stamped the ground.
Suddenly, the forest grew deathly quiet.
"Sires, we must leave." He said, "…Now."
"But what about the hawks?" Peter asked, taking up his reigns.
"They know the way. Come, we-"
He turned just in time to push Peter aside as a large grey wolf came bursting out from the bushes. Orieus, without time enough to even draw his sword, threw his arm up and managed to knock the wolf aside, but not without large claws ripping through his flesh as a reward. Within seconds, the entire area was swarming with satyrs, dwarves, minotaurs and a myriad of other creatures, teeth bared and weapons drawn. He was about to call for swords, but when he looked up, both his Kings already had theirs drawn, slashing through fur and hide. His right arm now useless, Orieus drew his own sword left-handed and cut down a dwarf in one motion.
For a few moments, it was all teeth and claws and steel, with the world flashing in hot, red bursts as the fury of battle came upon them. Orieus jerked and gritted his teeth as another set of claws raked his flank, and turning to take out whatever was behind him currently, in a flash of lightning, he caught Edmund's horse rearing wildly before turning and fleeing into the wood, sans King. Looking about wildly, he saw the younger, down on one knee; a number of boggles immediately fell upon him, and his face twisted as long, wicked claws tore into his light hunting jacket, shoulder to elbow.
Orieus yelled for Zaurus, but the blonde centaur was already upon them, sword out, and neatly decapitating one. There was a moment of nothing but hot, brown fur and steel when a satyr launched itself at Orieus, and it was a few moments before he could turn his attention back to the fallen King. Zaurus was reaching his hand out to Edmund, bending low, when the axe of a black dwarf flew out of nowhere and buried itself deeply in the other centaur's neck.
Time froze; a trail of blood slipped from the axe and dripped languidly onto Edmund's shocked face. Then Zaurus, looking wide-eyed, fell forward, and landed heavily and unmoving on the forest floor.
The silence broke with a cry from Peter. Orieus whipped his head around in time to see the monarch leap from his horse and dash to his brother, who was once again under siege from the boggles. Orieus reared up and lunged for the two, but even as he started, a huge minotaur jumped in his path. Weapons clashing, Orieus worked to finish the monster off quickly and reach his Kings for a retreat. Time was now more of the essence than ever. But while most of the Witch's minions would fight with wild abandon, making them dangerous in their unpredictability, the huge black creature fought hard, and though he hated to admit it, well. Orieus grunted as the heavy blade connected with more force than he had expected, but with his right arm was still ragged and bleeding, and it was becoming harder for him to match the speed of the blows. Gritting his teeth, Orieus gave a wild feint with his sword, praying.
It worked. The minotaur blocked it with a snarl, giving Orieus just enough time to grab a dagger from his belts and ram it into the creature's neck. It slumped over him, gurgling, and he pushed the beast off him and looked up to see Peter, white faced, grab Edmund by his good arm and practically throw him at Orieus.
"Climb on my back!" Orieus shouted, nearly hauling the younger King up himself anyway. He turned his head again, "Peter!" he called, jerking his chin.
Peter looked up, panting, and nodded. He gave a last thrust with his sword into a dwarf that had jumped up, and started to run to him. There was another flash of lightning, and then-
Peter fell, a strangled cry escaping him. Orieus watched as his young king curled in on himself instinctively, grabbing at his ankle, face twisted: he must have slipped in the wet grass and sodden detritus of the forest.
The creatures were on him in an instant, swarming. He heard a muffled yell come from the pile of beasts, and then a glint of gold as Rhindon was tossed carelessly aside. Edmund yelling behind him, Orieus raised his sword again, preparing to charge, but even as he did so, the boy on his back started to slide off. Orieus threw his hand back to catch the King by his leg. He snapped his head back around; a huge ogre was hauling Peter up by his collar with a triumphant grin on its face.
Orieus and Peter locked eyes: in that moment, behind the surprise and fear in crystaline blue, he saw the fierce determination he knew so well. Then a minotaur brought the hilt of its weapon crashing down onto Peter's temple and the eyes closed as he went limp.
"PETER!" Edmund screamed, "Orieus, do something!"
Orieus did the only thing he knew he could do; he turned and galloped into the forest, intent on getting at least one King home safe.
Stand by for chapter two! And thanks if you got this far. :) Peace, yinz.