Once a King of Narnia...
Everything feels so strange...
When I woke up this morning, I still felt like an ordinary ten year-old boy. But at the same time, I felt completely different. Admittedly, I was in a larger, more comfortable bed than I have ever known, covered in wonderfully warm blankets, and I could smell an ocean breeze coming in through the windows. But it was still the same me; hair messed up from too long on my pillow, eyes barely open, and not in the least bit impressed with my darling little sister... Lucy had woken me up by bouncing on my bed.
I've always been a heavy sleeper, and have always had trouble waking up in the morning. Just ask my family; I'm not a pleasant sight, and not good company, either. I will admit that I did moan a bit at Lucy when she woke me up today, but instead of complaining too much, I pulled her down onto the bed and started tickling her. I can't remember the last time I did something like that, or had that much fun, if I'm honest.
Susan and Peter found the pair of us in a heaving, giggling mass of bed-covers, and it wasn't very long before they joined in too. The noise raised more than a few eyebrows, to be sure, as several of the Narnians assigned to be our guards came rushing in to find out what was going on! It was a feeling that I hadn't really felt for far far too long, a feeling of family, of belonging. I hoped there and then that it would never end.
Getting ready for the coronation this afternoon, I still felt strange, different even. I haven't felt this happy, this peaceful, since the day Father left for the war... maybe even before then. Sure, there was still a lot on my mind. Even now, I still have lingering memories of my first few days in Narnia. I have just really started rebuilding my relationship with my family. I miss my home, and my parents. On top of all that, I was getting ready to be crowned King of a magical land that I barely knew! I should have been feeling fit to burst, but instead I just felt happy, and more than a little excited, in a calm kind of way... a bit contradictory, I know, but that is the only way I can describe it.
I had just finished having a bath, and caught my reflection in the mirror. It was different to the one I was used to; a little taller, a little skinnier perhaps, but still recognisable, with with my too-pale skin and more freckles than I would like. My eyes were the most changed, though... I almost didn't recognise them, at first. They looked older, as strange as that sounds even to me. I looked older, and I couldn't quite decide why. I did decide, eventually, that I was older, in a way; I was certainly not the boy I had been, if that makes sense.
Then there was the scar. As I was drying my hair, the scar on my stomach pulled taut, stinging a little, and reminding me that it was there. I remember running my fingers over the mark, and having a brief flash of memory; intense cold, and a sharp stab of pain. It lasted less than a second, but it was enough. I could see her face, snarling at me, willing me to die, wanting me to break down and give in... only this time, I refused. I wouldn't let Jadis get to me, I wouldn't, but it was so hard to stay focussed. I closed my eyes, and took a few deep breaths, remembering the happy feeling of just a few moments before.
If it hadn't been for the Fox, I might have given in to my memories. As it was, I heard a voice coming from my room; it was a voice that I recognised, but I couldn't place where I'd heard it before. I quickly finished dressing, and went to find out. To my complete surprise, standing in the middle of the main chamber was someone I hadn't expected to ever see again – the Fox that I had tried to save on the hill. I was stuck somewhere between joy at seeing him alive, and embarrassment at the memory of how he had come to be turned into stone in the first place. I'm not sure how much of that showed on my face, but if the Fox's expression was anything to go by, probably quite a bit.
"My apologies for intruding, Your Majesty," the Fox said, bowing his head slightly, sounding slightly uncomfortable. "Your royal brother asked me to check on you, and to tell you that a valet will be with you shortly to help you prepare for the coronation."
"Thank you," I said - well, sort of mumbled, actually - and after another bow he turned to leave. I thought about just letting him go, but I had to say something, embarrassment or not. I called out to him, and he stopped, turning to face me with an unreadable expression on his face. "Would... would you mind staying for a little while?" I asked. "I could use the company, and, umm, I kind of wanted to talk to you."
"Certainly, King Edmund," he replied, and walked back toward me. I smiled nervously at him, and wondered where to begin. Standing there, looking down at him as he looked back almost expectantly, I felt rather uncomfortable myself. So I sat down, right there on the floor, so that I could be face to face with the Fox. A moment later, the Fox sat down too, and I found myself deciding on just what to say.
"Umm, what's your name?" was apparently the best I could come up with. With the amount of apologising I've done over the past few days, you would think it becomes easier... trust me, it doesn't.
"Giles, my lord," was the Fox's simple reply. His quietness was a little unnerving, but he didn't seem unkind, or even particularly upset with me in any way.
"Giles? That's a nice name," was my own slightly weak response. "Listen, Giles, I ... I just wanted you to know that I'm sorry for what happened. I'm sorry she turned you to stone. And... and I'm sorry I let you down." I thought of the expression he had worn, after I tried to save him by giving Jadis the information she wanted. The thought made me feel a little ill.
"Thank you," Giles said after a few long moments, a smile crossing his face. "Though, there was no need to apologise. You didn't let me down, my King."
"How do you mean?" I asked, a little confused at his reasoning. "You were turned into a statue because of me."
"Perhaps," Giles said, looking thoughtful. "Then again, it may have happened anyway. I had been spying on her forces, after all."
"I just wanted to stop her hurting you," I said. "She'd already hurt too many people because of me... I'm sorry. You looked so disappointed with me."
"If I looked disappointed, I apologise, my King. I'm glad that you tried to save my life, I truly am. I appreciated your efforts, but at the same time I wished that you had kept silent, or else told her something other than the truth. You see, I was willing to die, if it meant more time could be bought for our forces."
"Another mistake," I whispered, half to myself. "I've made so very many, recently. And please, it's just Edmund. I'm not a king yet, you know."
"Very well, Edmund it is," Giles smiled.
"You were really ready to die?" I asked, a little in awe. The Fox nodded slowly. "You're very brave, Giles. Far braver than I was. I did so much damage when I first came here."
"Do not be so hard on yourself, Edmund," Giles replied. "Don't you see? Already you were trying to mend your ways, up on that ridge. Edmund, I have heard that some have called you a traitor. I want you to know that I do not believe them. You made a single mistake, and trusted someone you should not have. Whilst that wrong could have undone much, since then you have done a lot of good, and fought to redeem yourself. From what I have heard, you were more than willing to risk yourself for your family and this country. Without your efforts, the battle may have been lost altogether. I have known traitors, Edmund. Believe me when I tell you that you are far less of a traitor, and far more of a king, than you probably know."
"How can you be sure?" I asked, stunned by his words. In truth, I hadn't truly thought about it that way... even after Aslan told me I had been forgiven, I had still only really thought about all I had done wrong, not the things I may have done right.
"As I said, I have known traitors," Giles said, sounding sad, breaking into my thoughts. "In a way, I am one myself."
"You?" I asked, surprised. "A traitor?"
"After a fashion," the Fox replied, a wry smile crossing his face. "I turned my back on my own family, so that I might follow Aslan." I sat in silence, unsure of what to say, until the silence became a bit uncomfortable. Eventually, I spoke up.
"What happened? If you don't mind me asking?"
"I don't talk about it very often," he said softly, then took a deep breath. "But perhaps, in this case... My father, Ranulph Greytail, was the head of the once-noble House Cinnabar. His father held that position once, and his father before him, for generations; some say all the way back to the times of King Frank and Queen Helen. For generations, my family held a high position amongst the nobles of Narnia. We were trusted by many, and were often sought out for our sage council and for our diplomatic skills.
"Then, a hundred years ago, Jadis came. She brought her winter, and her armies of fell creatures. The line of Adam fought against her, and fought bravely, but the Witch commanded powerful forces. Toward the end of the war, when Narnia was most in need of a great victory, the King of the time came to the House of Cinnabar, seeking advice in his war against her tyranny. The head of the house at the time, Gerard, counselled that the King should face Jadis in open warfare, forcing a final battle between our forces and hers, and helped him arrange battle plans. The King gathered his army, and under Aslan's banner marched against the Witch.
"The Narnian army was ambushed and all but destroyed. Jadis had recruited Narnians to her side, promising them power and riches in return for their handing over the throne to her. Among the chief traitors were my family. We had betrayed the rightful King. Since that day, House Cinnabar have worked as spies for the Witch's secret police. My father and both of my brothers died in that service. I am the last of my household."
"How did they die?" I asked, adjusting my position on the carpet as my legs started to go a little numb. A hopeful thought had started to form, as I briefly remembered Aslan's actions of a couple of nights ago, when he had breathed on the land and healed it. If they had been turned to stone...
"Jadis had them executed," Giles said, his voice heavy, and my heart fell at the finality in his voice. "They gave her information on a group of Narnians that were causing her problems. She sent her wolves, but they found nothing; I had warned the rebels, and in her anger the Witch had my family killed. All because of me."
I didn't know what to say. Giles had done the right thing, for all the right reasons, and had lost his family as a result. I have to admit that, hearing his story, I felt both a great amount of pity for Giles, and no small amount of sadness. The Fox looked up at me then, and his sad expression seemed to melt a little.
"I'm sorry, Edmund," he said softly. "I didn't tell you this to upset you. That would never be my intention, least of all today, of all days. I tell you my story because there is a lesson to be learned. I made a hard decision, but despite my loss I know that I did the right thing. As a King, you will make many decisions, most of them harder than even I can likely guess. But Aslan trusts you to make those decisions. Learn from your mistakes, try to be fair in all things, and don't be afraid to ask for help. You won't go too far wrong, I think. The trick is, you have to trust yourself. "
"I sometimes wonder if I can," I said slowly. Giles reached forward, and placed his paw on my hand.
"Your family does," he said. "So does Aslan. And so do I, if I may say so. You feel things deeply, Edmund, and you think things through; perhaps a little too much, if it is not too bold." I managed a smile at that; I could picture Peter saying something about the opposite being true. "My point is that you have to have faith. Faith in yourself, faith in your family, faith in Aslan. Have faith in your own abilities, and in His blessings. And remember that so long as you do, you will never be alone."
"I hope everyone is as understanding as you," I said, a small smile crossing my face.
"Most will be," Giles said. "If I might offer some advice? Worry a little less about the past, and concentrate on the future. If you dwell too long on what has been, you will never move forward. We are a good people, my King, and few of us hold a grudge for very long. You have been forgiven, as I said. Let that be enough." He stood then, and I joined him.
"I must go," Giles said, smiling at me. "I have a few things to see to before the coronation begins. I will see you there, my liege. Before I go, though, I was wondering if I could ask you something."
"There is a lion downstairs... I suppose in human terms he would not be a lot older than yourself. He hasn't even started growing a mane yet. Quite the excitable young creature. He... well, he has some odd markings on his face..." I felt myself starting to redden. It was the lion I had drawn on in Jadis' courtyard, it had to be; I had almost forgotten about him!
"Oh no!" I groaned. "Is he very angry?"
"He seems to think it is quite the honour, actually," Giles said, grinning. "Apparently Aslan told him that it was a mark of respect, that you had been intimidated by his fierceness and had marked him accordingly." I had never pictured a fox raising his eyebrows before, but he did.
"Nearly true," I said, embarrassed. Giles grinned some more. "It sounds like we should stick with that story, though!"
"Very wise," Giles replied with a laugh. He left then, and just a few moments later, a faun arrived to help me prepare for the coronation. I felt happier again, having talked to Giles. I don't know if it was because of what he had said, or if it was more to do with having apologised to the last Narnian I had directly affected by my actions. Whatever it was, I felt... not ready, I think, but more ready than I had been to accept that I had a future here, and to face what was to come. I felt lighter, in a way. Less burdened. I just had to have faith in my family, and in my new friends, and to trust that I would never prove their faith in me to be poorly placed.
O o O o O
The coronation was everything I had imagined, and so much more. I had seen the throne room of Cair Paravel just once before today, when we had moved into the castle, and Aslan had begun organising the castle's preparation. I had been impressed by it's size, certainly, and the glass roof was unlike anything I had ever seen. But today, seeing the hall decorated so beautifully, and filled with so many Narnians in their best dress, it was beyond amazing.
As we walked toward the thrones, Peter to my right, then Aslan and the girls, my heart was practically in my throat, I was so nervous. I kept my hands closed so that the smiling faces we passed couldn't see them shaking from my excitement, and I'm pretty sure that I was grinning like an idiot; I'm glad that Aslan was there, in all truth, or else my nerves might have given way. But, as it was, I made it to the dais at the end of the hall without tripping over my feet, and turned to face the Great Lion.
The ceremony was simple and elegant, though in all truth I expected no less from Aslan. We were introduced to the Narnians formally, and Aslan announced our new titles; Lucy the Valiant, Edmund the Just, Susan the Gentle, and Peter the Magnificent. Peter was also titled as High King, due to his position as eldest of our family. As Mr. Tumnus placed our crowns upon our heads, it struck me that my family really did look like royalty, and their titles fit each of them perfectly. We sat down on our thrones, then, and Aslan closed the ceremony.
"Once a king or queen of Narnia," he said, his deep voice echoing around the room, "always a king or queen. May your wisdom grace us, until the stars fall down from the heavens." I was so excited, it was all I could do to sit still. I spotted Giles in the crowd, standing next to the lion that he had mentioned to me earlier. Both of them were smiling, and I nodded slightly, smiling along with them.
Before long, there was dancing, and feasting, and more dancing; I've never known a people so full of life, so willing to embrace happiness as the Narnians. It's so unlike England. There, everything is so grey and dull. Even before the war, there was never anything about the place or the people that could compare to this; even the best party I could have imagined would have looked like a funeral, when compared to the celebration that my family and I became the centre of.
I let the excitement and the joy carry me along with it; dancing until my feet hurt (even though I hate dancing), eating food more delicious than I could have imagined. I talked and laughed, and even sang, with every Narnian that approached me, as well as my family. For perhaps the first time in, well, forever, it seems, I felt like I truly belonged...
Eventually, after a very long time, I found myself standing in a quiet corner of the great hall, watching my family. I was just a little tired, I guess. Peter was dancing with a dryad, Susan with a faun, and Lucy was sitting with Mr. Tumnus and the beavers off to one side, laughing at one of Mr. Beaver's jokes. They all looked so very happy, and seeing them so made me feel warm inside, through and through. For whatever reason, the thought that I had nearly lost all of this threatened to bubble to the surface, then, and I felt a sudden need to be alone. I do that sometimes, I've never known why. And so it was that I found myself slipping outside for some fresh air.
O o O o O
It's a funny thing to think that I never used to feel the cold. Well, that isn't entirely true. I felt it, but somehow it bothered me less. Winter was always my favourite time of year; I would be the first to run out into the snow, Mother hollering after me to put on my scarf. I would beg the others to make snow-angels with me, or build a snowman, or even have a snowball fight. On more than one occasion, Father had to pick me up and carry me inside when it got too dark, as I never wanted to stop playing... not that I minded that too much, either, because if we had been very good then Mother would make us some hot chocolate, to keep the cold at bay.
Winter meant being with my family, gathered around a fire, listening to music on the wireless or to one of Father's stories. It meant Christmas and presents, our grandparents coming to see us, carols around the tree and roasted chestnuts. And, nine times out of ten, it meant me coming down with a winter cold because I didn't wrap up enough. Not that I ever learned. As soon as I was deemed fit, I was back outside...
I feel the cold now. Even though it has been the most gloriously warm day, even though there is only the slightest breeze coming in off of the ocean, I'm cold. I can't help shivering a little, and pulling my cloak a little tighter around myself every so often. From the little balcony that I've hidden away on, I can hear the party going on inside, hear the sounds of my family and the Narnians celebrating still; I know it will be warm in there, and that I will be amongst friends. But I can't bring myself to rejoin them. Not yet.
I hate the cold now. It carries too many memories for me, too many reminders of what I have done, too many reminders of Her. It's just one more thing that's been taken from me for my mistakes. I wonder if I'll ever enjoy anything again, sometimes. But then I think of Aslan, and my family, and I think that, for all that I've lost, I have gained so much more. And so I stay out here, partly to face my fears, partly to remind myself of what I've learned, and who I have become.
King Edmund the Just... I'm not sure if I will ever get used to that, even less sure that I am worthy of such a title. I still can't quite believe that all of this has happened, that I am here, in this place, let alone that I have been crowned along with my family. Four thrones, four rulers... the idea that someone prophesied my family's arrival over a thousand years ago is just overwhelming. The fact that I am now wearing a crown, that I have sworn an oath to serve and protect this land, is just as unbelievable. However did I get here? I shiver again, and start to wonder how much longer I can stay out here; a part of me still doesn't quite feel like going back. And so I stay, breath curling upward in little wisps, alone with my thoughts.
"I wondered where you'd got to."
It seems that someone, at least, has noticed my absence. I turn around, and find Peter smiling at me from the archway that leads onto the balcony. The smile doesn't quite reach his eyes, and I can see that I've worried him a little.
"I just needed to get some fresh air," I say, smiling back at my brother and hoping he won't be too upset at my disappearing from the party. My whole family have been keeping quite a close eye on me since the battle, almost as if they're afraid I'll just up and vanish on a whim. It's a little annoying, I'll admit, but at the same time it's immensely comforting.
"Ah," he says simply, as he walks over to join me. I turn to look out over the ocean again, as Peter leans on the balcony. He's quiet for a second, then continues. "You never did like things like this much, did you."
"Not really," I sigh. "It's not the party, really, so much as all the fuss. Over me, I mean."
"I think you might have to get used to it," Peter says with a laugh. "You are a king now, you know? Or were you sleeping through the crowning part?" His smile is infectious, and I can't help but join in with a smile of my own.
"No, I wasn't," I whisper after a few seconds. I look up at him, and I think for a moment about telling him my fears; fears that I won't be a good king, that I've done far too much damage already to ever be truly accepted, despite everyone telling me the opposite. It's all so confusing. Peter looks back at me, and instantly his expression changes; he can see what I'm thinking, almost, like he's reading my mind. His look is one of understanding and love, and he moves to face me square on. And with one simple action, he answers my questions, and stops my fears dead in their tracks.
Peter steps forward, and pulls me into his arms, resting his chin on my head. I hold onto him too, curling my fingers into his tunic and closing my eyes as I rest my head against my brother's chest. We stay like this for a few moments, Peter rubbing my back in the same way Father used to, letting me know that he loves me, and that that is all that really matters; that I have my family, and they have me. After a few moments, he pulls back, and after dropping a small kiss onto my forehead, Peter smiles at me once more.
"Come on," he says gently. "We'd best get back inside before Susan sends out a search party. You know how she can get." We both grin at the thought, and as we start walking toward the door, Peter puts his arm around my shoulders. As he does so, and we step into the light of the banqueting hall, a thought comes to me.
I made a promise, not so long ago. It was less than a fortnight, and a whole lifetime away, a promise made by a very different boy sitting in an icy dungeon. I promised then that I would do everything I could to make up for what I had done. I had promised to do whatever it took to be better, to never let my family down again, to never hurt them if it was in my power. Now, I promised it again. I would give everything I had to be the best brother I could, and I added that I would try to be the best king I could, too. I would try my best to never let anyone else suffer for my mistakes again...
No more mistakes. No more hurt.
No more regrets.
Disclaimer: I do not own, nor have I in any way profited from, the characters portrayed within this story. They belong, in their entirety, to the wonderful imagination of C. S. Lewis, and whoever holds the copyright.
Author's Notes: I'll admit, this was a hard chapter to write, far harder than any of the others. I wanted the end to be positive, but at the same time going for a completely 'happy ending' just didn't seem to fit with the character of the story. So, after many sleepless nights, literally dozens of re-writes, and not a little panicking, this is the result.
In the end, having Edmund on the mend, but not the whole way there, seemed the sensible route to take. I believe that he would still have a lot of doubts, despite the various reassurances he has received over the last few chapters, not to mention being equal parts nervous and excited about becoming a king at just ten years old. I hope I got the mix right, I really do.
I hope you all enjoyed this. I've certainly enjoyed writing Regrets, both as a chance to write my first Narnia story, and as a chance to get inside the head of one of my favourite literary characters of all time. I'm immensly glad that this story has gone down as well as it has, and I would like to take this opportunity to offer a huge 'Thank You' to everyone who has taken time out to review. Your support, criticism and views have all been greatly appreciated, and if you're still reading this after all this time, I thank you again.
Finally, a couple of dedications:
To Elecktrum and FaithfulPureLight: For being some of the best friends a guy could ask for, for your support and guidance, and for being two of my guiding lights when it comes to Narnia fanfiction, you have my deepest thanks, good my friends. Don't know what I'd do without you. And E, thanks again for the use of Ed's middle name, and the Fox's first name. In case I have neglected to mention this before now, you are a genius, and it is a deep honour to be allowed to play in your sandbox.
To Paulabookworm: I did promise you a scene with the fox, and so here it is. I hope it meets your approval; it came as something of a surprise to me, that's for certain! The whole backstory comes from just a few lines near the beginning of the film; Beaver's calling the fox a traitor, and his reply that it was an unfortunate family resemblance. It seemed to fit, anyways.
Thanks again, everyone. As ever, all comments are most welcome.