Title: King's Bane
Summery: Its Edmund's 13th Birthday. But all's not well, what with a rebellion rising in Narnia and the White Witch appearing everywhere he looks…set in the Golden Age
Disclaimer: I can't think of a clever disclaimer today. So pick your favorite out from the last nine…
AN – So…I really have no excuse for why this is late, 'cept for the chapter and me had several staring contests, and the chapter was definitely on a winning streak. But I won the war - if not many of the battles - and here's chapter ten. The last chapter of King's Bane, friends and foes and turncoats, is here.
Oh, and someone asked if this was slash. No, it's not. Look, here's what I think about slash: I won't bash you if you write it, but I'm not gonna read it either. Now, here's what I think about incest: No. Anyone who likes that stuff in fanfiction is obviously an only child. So, for the record, this is NOT Peter/Edmund. 'Cause honestly, that's just plain wrong.
"Seeing's Believing, but Feeling's the Truth." – Thomas Fuller
When Peter came barreling up to Edmund's door, Oreius was ready for him. The General caught him by the arm just before he flew through the open entry. "A moment, your Majesty."
"But – "
"King Edmund is not of…sound mind." Oreius said. His voice was low and somber. "And before you go in, you should be prepared."
"Prepared?" Peter paled as he thought of the woods, the terrible moment where Edmund had not known him. "How bad is it?"
"He knows the Queens," Oreius said. "And seems ready to accept they are real. What he troubles over is the direct circumstances of the current situation."
"I bid you to speak plainly, Oreius."
"From what I've gathered, King Peter, King Edmund thinks himself – and the Queens – in the hands of the Witch. And as such, locked in her dungeons," Oreius explained. Peter heard the underlying emotions in the centaur's voice, and when he continued, heard the smallest whisper of remorse in his words. "He thought me to be one of Her's."
Peter sighed and braced his shoulders. "It all ready happened to me, too, Oreius. But you must let me in."
"Yes, your Majesty," the General said, dropping his arm and moving aside. Peter was very near to stampeding over him at any rate. "I just wished to warn you."
Peter hesitated for a moment – only a moment – and then pushed in.
"…Keep your eyes closed, Edmund, and listen to me," Susan was saying. Edmund had wedged himself tightly in the corner, curled up into a tight ball with his head hidden in his knees. Susan was kneeling down in front of him and Lucy was slightly behind her. Oreius, content with what protection Peter could offer, shut the door behind him as he exited the bedroom. Susan continued, "We're not in any danger."
Lucy glanced over at Peter and moved closer to him. "Su – "
Susan looked up too. She had stopped wearing the bandage on her head, and only a slight scar remained. "See, Edmund? Peter's here now too."
Edmund shuddered and said something quiet enough that Peter couldn't hear him. Susan shook her head and laid a hand on Edmund's arm cautiously. He flinched and she hastily pulled away. "No, he wasn't captured. None of us were."
Peter felt the lump lodge in his throat. He swallowed tightly, and then did it again. Lucy bit her lip and looked up at him before nudging him forward. Peter stumbled ahead slightly. Susan, understanding at once, stood and moved backwards. "Ed?" Peter said, hating how weak his voice sounded – how insecure it was in uttering that one single syllable.
Yet, it had an instant effect on his brother. Edmund paused in his rocking, and he stopped shaking ever so slightly.
Peter swallowed. "You're all right, Edmund. You're okay. You're safe. We've got you."
Peter couldn't hear all of Edmund's response. He just caught a few words, dungeon, ice and witch among them. It was enough.
"You need to listen to me, all right? We're not in the Witch's dungeons. We are in Cair Paravel. Someone…they tried…" Peter tapered off, wondering how you go about telling a person – let alone your brother – that there was a group of his own subjects out for his blood. "You've been poisoned, Edmund. It's affecting your judgment."
The whole assassination part could wait until later.
Edmund simply shuddered and curled even tighter in on himself.
"Remember? Out in the woods."
"I…you looked like one of…of them…" Edmund whispered after a moment.
"Yes, yes, exactly." Peter said. He felt almost guilty at the starting flood of relief hitting him. Finally, Edmund was listening. "The poison…it's making you see things that aren't there, Ed. We're not in the dungeons; we're in Cair Paravel. The Witch is gone. She's gone."
Edmund slowly lifted his face from where he'd buried it. Yet, he kept his eyes tightly closed. "But it…I mean…everything's so cold, Peter." He opened his eyes, and looked around. Peter didn't need to hear him say anything to know he wasn't seeing his familiar chambers. He was looking at something else, something he was just as familiar with, and something Peter had never seen.
"You're safe, Ed," Peter pressed. "We're in the Cair."
"But all there is…is ice," he whispered. Edmund turned his wide eyes to Peter, and grabbed at his brother's arms in an iron grip. There was nothing but raw fear in the youngest king's eyes, and it ripped Peter's heart out. "Only ice."
"I'll prove it." Peter said. "Susan. Lucy."
The two girls nodded, ready and eager to help in anyway.
"Leave. Edmund, tell me this: if we were in the dungeon, would they be able to go by themselves?"
"Peter, are you sure you want us out?" Lucy asked. She was staring at Edmund, desperate to help.
Susan took her arm. "Let's go, Lu," she whispered gently. Then, she looked up and smiled as brightly as she could at Edmund. "See? No one's stopping us."
They walked from the room.
Edmund suddenly gasped, and seized his head with his hands. "Edmund?" Peter asked. Edmund's eyes were screwed shut, and he bit his lower lip. Peter caught the younger boy's shoulders. "Don't get lost on me, Edmund. Not again."
Edmund, quite suddenly, stopped shaking. He dropped his hands to his lap, and cautiously opened his eyes. They went from his bed, to the balcony, and over to the mirror. Then he looked at Peter. "I think I'm back," he said hoarsely.
"Good," Peter said. His voice sounded just as ragged. "Think you can get up off of the floor?"
Once Edmund was settled in his bed, Peter started to pull away to go and talk to Oreius and the girls. But Edmund's grip on his wrist stopped him. "Can you stay?" he asked. "Please? In case I…I'm confused again."
Peter mutely nodded and sat down next to him. Edmund curled up against his side, and was out in moments. Peter quietly flicked at his brother's hair, and worried about the morning.
They would have to tell Edmund sooner or later about the Free Narnians, anyway…
Edmund slept through the night. The next morning was greeted with a similar situation as the previous night, but at least it took slightly less time to talk Edmund out of it. He was shaky, and sick to his stomach after.
Peter made him eat anyway. After all, it had been four days, and Edmund was much to skinny for his liking. Susan and Lucy came to join in on his first 'meal', if you could call it that. They perched on the end of his bed and chattered on, and Peter leaned idly against a wall. As Edmund nibbled at the toast, he glanced up at Peter. "You said I was poisoned."
Inwardly, Peter cursed. Of course, Edmund would bring this up right away. So, instead of talking, Peter nodded. He knew it was in vain, but he wanted to delay this conversation as long as possible. The girls watched anxiously.
Edmund cleared his throat and set the toast aside. He picked at the blankets on his bed. "Who?"
After a round of glances was exchanged (Peter at Susan, then Susan at Lucy, then Lucy at Peter, and then Peter at Lucy and Lucy at Susan), Peter sighed. He started to talk, and Lucy or Susan would add in bits and details. When he came to Edmund's escape, he hesitated and glanced over at Susan.
Edmund noticed, and looked too. It took all of Susan's willpower not to let her hand rise to her head. "I stepped out of the room for a moment," she supplied. "And when I came back, you were gone."
Edmund stared at her for a hard moment, and then looked back at Peter as he continued. When the horrid tale was done, Edmund was very quiet. His silence unsettled Peter to an alarming degree. When it came to Edmund, the louder he was about something, the less important it was. The quieter, the more. And Peter had no idea how to find out what was going through his head. "I'm rather tired," he said after a moment. "Maybe I should sleep."
Another round of glances was shared between the other three rulers. Susan and Lucy left, but Peter pulled up a chair. "You've slept enough," he said. "Talk."
"I hurt Susan, didn't I?" Edmund asked quietly, not looking at Peter.
Peter hesitated, his thoughts going to the faint scar on her forehead. The Healers said that it too, would be gone in a few weeks. Susan had been wearing her hair in a way that mostly hid it, but Edmund didn't miss much of anything. "What makes you say that?"
"No one will let she nor Lucy alone in here," he said. "And I had this dream…and I think I…I remember when…" Edmund trailed off, biting at his lip.
"You weren't in your right mind, Ed," Peter said gently.
"That's what everyone keeps saying about everything," said Edmund. Peter was taken aback at the bitterness in his voice. "'You weren't thinking straight', or 'it wasn't like you meant to,' and 'you were hallucinating, you can't be blamed'. I read about King's Bane. It pulls things out from your own mind, Peter, and makes them real. So then who else is to blame but myself?"
"Edmund, you were poisoned." Peter cut in. "The blame goes entirely to those…those traitors. Not you nor anyone else"
Edmund got an odd look on his face. The oldest Pevensie felt his stomach drop as he thought about his exact word choice. "But are they? I'm a traitor, too." Edmund said. Peter could hear the barely contained tears thickening his voice. His hands clenched the covers in tight fists. "Maybe…Maybe I deserved – "
"No! Edmund, don't say that!" he snapped at him. "Do not even think it."
"You don't know," Edmund's voice became ragged. "You don't understand. You don't know!"
And out it came, tumbling and told in broken sobs and rushed mumblings. Of when he first came to Narnia, and was thrown into the snow by Her dwarf servant and then the Turkish Delight. Of leaving the Beavers and arriving at the palace only to find the gravity of what he'd just done. Of sitting in the icy cell and finding Mister Tumnus, how he didn't know what to do and made a mess of things and the betrayal in the faun's eyes. Of hours and hours stretching on forever and the most intense cold he'd ever felt that were punctuated only by brief periods of abuse and heartache from the Witch and Her servants. Of how he tried to help the Fox Giles but ended up only making things worse. He rushed through the freezing of the Christmas Tea Party, and how he tried to stop Her, really, but it didn't work. Of feeling the sting of Her whip and blows, attempting to convince himself none of this was real; it was a dream – it had to be a dream. He told Peter that he honestly thought he would die, bound to a tree and gagged. That he deserved to die after all that he'd done. But then suddenly how the ropes were gone and he was being carried away, and how all Edmund could think of was that this couldn't be right, that this wasn't right. That he shouldn't be rescued because who would ever want to rescue something as vile and disgusting as himself? He told his brother everything that he'd been desperately trying to push aside for the past three years.
Edmund told Peter, how even now as he walked through Cair Paravel, he would find himself staring listlessly out of the window towards where Her palace used to stand, with the sickly sweet taste of Turkish Delight dancing on his tongue.
Edmund pushed on to that first nightmare and the second, and then seeing the Witch at the back of the party. How all he could think about after that was getting away, and he'd even hurt Susan, his own sister, and even if he didn't know that it was her it didn't excuse anything. He told Peter about running and running and never being able to go fast enough. "And all I could think of was that if She got me, that if I couldn't get away, then it would be like last time and I wouldn't be able to stop it, because I haven't changed, not really, and I'd just sell everyone out again and She would ki…you'd all be de…and it would be because of me!"
Somewhere during his tirade, Peter had pulled Edmund into his lap and gently rocked him back and forth. "Oh, Edmund," Peter whispered into his hair as his brother's words gave way to wordless weeping. "Ed, Ed, Edmund."
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry," Edmund repeated into his sleeve. "I'm so sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry…"
Nothing Peter said could make him stop apologizing. He continued until his breath evened out and deepened, his voice faded to past a whisper, and he fell into the exhausted slumber of one utterly spent. But Peter continued to rock him, holding Edmund to his chest. He picked up his little brother's mantra.
"I'm sorry, Edmund, I'm sorry."
Miles away, not to far from the late Abagaila Treehopper's tree, an elderly dwarf was hobbling through the woods. She was leaning heavily on a knarled walking stick that seemed to be just as ancient as she was. Just behind her, a young centaur with cropped, golden hair carefully picked his way over the dark landscape.
"Curse these old legs," the dwarf moaned. She looked back at the centaur. "I don't suppose you could give an old girl a lift, eh?"
"I've carried you from the Cair," he muttered. "And that was disgrace enough, Grandmother Dwarf."
"Youth these days," she said, shaking her head and pushing onward. "Nothing but lip. Ah, here we are!"
They stood at the edge of a clearing. The dwarf rapped on a nearby tree with her staff. "Rannoch? Permission to enter your Home Meadow?"
The stag emerged from the shadows on the opposite side. "Granted," he called. His voice was thick and low – a sure indication of his emotions. Rannoch's liquid eyes landed on the centaur. "Tibus. Did you make her walk all of this way?"
The dwarf smiled smugly.
Tibus crossed his arms and pouted slightly. "I carried her to the Woods' edge."
Rannoch shook his antlers. "Youth," he said.
The dwarf nodded sagely. "Exactly what I said."
Rannoch then looked to the dwarf. "I take it you're here as the bearer of some sort of dreadful news, yes?"
She pursed her lips. "I'm afraid so, sir. The false king is suffering, to be sure. Every time he wakes from even the faintest slumber he slips into dreams. But he'll live."
Rannoch nodded. "We always knew that there would be some chance of this failing. We just got carried away. And Abigaila…"
The conspirators fell silent. Then Tibus stamped a hoof against the grass. "Treehopper was a crazy fool anyway. She should have – Ow!"
The dwarf lowered her walking stick. Tibus reached down and quietly rubbed his sore foreleg, glaring at her. "Don't speak of the dead as such."
"You would do well to listen, Tibus," said Rannoch. "For Ritnik is right. Abagaila was a dear friend, and a true believer in our cause."
Ritnik nodded once. "What are we to do now, though, sir? The Cair knows someone's after him, and they don't know yet he's the enemy."
"As I was saying before, we always knew there was a chance of failure. So, I took the liberty of coming up with a back up plan." Rannoch said. Ritnik's eyes locked on his, and even Tibus seemed interested. "But we'll have to get everyone together. The Free Narnians have much work to do. Ritnik, you'll have to be our eyes again, in the Cair, and our ears. After all, it's only three months until the Traitor Sun rules the sky…"
To be continued…
Yeah, before you start throwing rotten vegetables and what not at me, saying 'but that didn't solve anything!' I would like to say that I'm aware of that (Ducks a well-aimed tomato and waves a white flag) Simply, because, I'm working on a sequel. It'll be titled 'Beneath the Traitor Sun'. There'll be lots more angst, and Free Narnians, and assassination attempts, and Mr. Tumnus' porridge, and angst, and certain innocent creatures getting framed.
…Did I mention the angst?
I'd like to thank everyone who reviewed. If I could, I'd bake you all cookies, because you make me all warm and fuzzy inside! You all rock my socks off!
Thanks for reading, and I'll hopefully see you at the sequel! Please?
(Ultra-Geek bows. The metaphoric curtain closes. The metaphoric camera angle turns to reveal that the metaphorical auditorium is empty save for a metaphoric janitor metaphorically sweeping. But, this metaphoric janitor happens to look like James McAvoy, metaphorically, so it's all good. Metaphoric Janitor James McAvoy looks up at readers. "REVIEW!" he yells.
Blackout. Metaphorically speaking, naturally)