Title: Strength for Honor
Disclaimer: I do not own the Chronicles of Narnia, book or movie.
Note 1:This is the answer to challenge 23: Honor. Unlike my previous challenges, this one is Prince Caspian Movie-based. I found, after watching the movie, that I rather liked General Glozelle and how he struggled with loyalty to a corrupt lord. This fic is a bit of an exploration of how he found honor.
Note 2: Alright, confession: I didn't actually write this based on the word Honor. But I found after having written it that it actually fit it quite well and I thought maybe I could squeeze it in as one of the challenge answers. What really happened was that I read way too much into Edmund's conversation with Miraz: "It's King Edmund, actually. Just King, though. Peter's the High King." You'll see what I mean in the story, but that conversation stuck with me and this fic was born.
General Glozelle was a typical Telmarine. He lived simply, wore rather dull colors, and followed his lord with staunch loyalty. In only one respect did he deviate from the rest of his countrymen: he knew and loved the tales of old Narnia.
He never openly admitted that he had even read them, for his father had scorned the stories as childish fantasies and his mother disliked reading on general principle. But Glozelle's uncle, under whom he had studied in preparation for a military career, possessed a large library that included old, dusty books filled with tales from when savage creatures roamed the land underneath the sovereignty of a great Lion.
As a youth, Glozelle would secrete these books to his room, devouring the tales of the Lion, called Aslan, singing the land into existence, stories of fauns, centaurs, talking animals, giants, and witches. The legends that truly arrested his young mind, though, were those of what the Narnians considered their Golden Age; when High King Peter, called Magnificent, ruled alongside his brother and two sisters. Young Glozelle had shivered when reading of how King Edmund's meeting with the fell White Witch, how he, a young boy, had betrayed his family only to repent of his deeds. Glozelle had nearly come to tears when Aslan offered his life to the Witch in King Edmund's place, and cheered when the two Queens saw Him return to life. He read of the coronation of the Four Sovereigns and their rule, though usually focusing on the battles that the two kings, and sometimes Queen Lucy the Valiant, fought to protect the land.
As a naïve youth, Glozelle had admired High King Peter the most, a great warrior and leader who won every battle he fought. As he trained and rose in the ranks of the Telmarine army, Glozelle kept the High King's example in the back of his mind, his leadership the inspiration for Glozelle's actions. Later, as he had matured and grown wise to the politics of a royal court and the ugly truth of war, Glozelle gained a new respect for the stories of King Edmund the Just. The younger king, as brave as his brother in battle, had also been famed for his wisdom and mercy. Both of which Glozelle often found lacking among the Telmarine nobility. The story that most stuck out to him as depicting these attributes was that of King Edmund and the Talking Wolves, where the younger king defied his brother's caution and set off to the Western Wood. There he found himself alone and surrounded by the Wolves, known to have been loyal to the Witch, and with his voice alone convinced them to heed to the rule of Aslan and the Four Sovereigns. The book made clear that his voice had carried neither threats of violence nor condemnation, but impartial justice tempered with abundant mercy.
Sometimes, listening to Lord Miraz, Glozelle's mind would return to that story and treacherously long for a return of King Edmund's justice. It was a fleeting thought, impossible as the Narnians were nothing but fairy tales and the Four Sovereigns a story from the imagination of Telmarine ancestors. An older Glozelle had known and accepted that the heroes of his youth were only fables, personifications of ideals that had no place in reality and he pushed the stories to the back of his memory. High King Peter and King Edmund were characters in the books of his childhood, nothing more. No more real than fauns or talking beavers.
But now, so General Glozelle thought as he stood waiting for the Narnian heralds at the edge of the woods, I am watching the approach of not just one young human but of a centaur and what could only be a giant. Only the other night I ordered the removal of the bodies of satyrs and fauns and sword-bearing mice. And Lord Sopesian has intimated that King Miraz believes Prince Caspian to be aided not just by Narnians but by the Four Sovereigns returned.
Glozelle stiffened as the three Narnians approached. Wryly, Glozelle thought that he was actually much calmer than the Telmarine soldiers on either side of him, but then again he had the advantage of knowing that centaurs were wise creatures and giants rather dim and neither would do much harm unless provoked. It was the boy they walked with that truly caught the General's attention, a human, who was certainly not Prince Caspian, amongst creatures long thought a myth. Soon the three Narnians came to a stop in front of him, holding out their peace-branches. The boy, he could only be but twelve years old, stepped forward, indicating that he was the primary herald.
Looking into the boy's dark brown eyes, Glozelle recognized, to his own astonishment, the eyes of a soldier. Eyes that had seen battle, blood, and death and held the soul-damaging knowledge of what it meant to take a life. These eyes had seen evil, felt it, fought it, and defeated it. This was no boy. He was a man, a man of Glozelle's age and experience, but who was trapped in a body too young for his soul.
And in seeing those eyes, Glozelle felt only the smallest shock when the herald announced himself. "I am Edmund, by right and prescription King of Narnia under Aslan and knight of Noble Order of the Table. I bring a message from my royal brother, Peter High King over all kings of Narnia and knight of the Most Noble Order of the Lion, to Miraz, sometimes styling himself King of Narnia."
Glozelle felt absurdly small in front of this youth, like a child standing in front of his disappointed father after having done something wrong. This was King Edmund! A hero of his childhood bearing a message from yet another legend! There was no doubt in Glozelle's mind that King Edmund was who he said he was, but the wonder he felt just looking at this King returned brought back the magical feel of his youth.
It took a long moment before Glozelle managed to summon the courage to answer. "I am General Glozelle. King Miraz will hear your message at his royal pavilion." Though that was all Miraz had meant him to say, Glozelle found himself adding an oath from the old stories, "Our royal King grants you safe passage in our camp. No harm shall come to you nor your companions whilst the negotiations between our two parties convene beneath the heavens, so sworn in…" Glozelle slammed his mouth shut on the words in the name of Aslan High King of Kings, as the oaths in his uncle's books were recorded as ending and as a young Glozelle had memorized. "So sworn by the king," he ended instead, vowing to himself that the oath would hold no matter what Miraz, who had sworn no such thing, planned for the Narnians
Dark eyes peered sharply at him and Glozelle forced his own eyes to meet those of King Edmund. He thought he saw a small smirk appear on the King's face, but he blinked and the Narnian's face was void of all emotion. Turning so as to escape King Edmund's attention, Glozelle requested that the Narnian heralds follow him. At the edge of the pavilion the centaur and the giant were requested to wait outside while King Edmund came forward to present his message.
After introducing the ambassador, Glozelle stood in position behind and to the side of the Narnian King. He listened in amazement as King Edmund read out his brother's challenge to single combat. Surely Miraz was not so mad as to attempt to fight High King Peter! But if he did not, he thought Miraz would lose face before the people and the council of lords. Glozelle watched as King Edmund finished reading and began rolling up the scroll.
Glozelle held back a wince as Miraz began speaking and incorrectly addressed the ambassador whom the general had only introduced a few moments before. "Tell me, Prince Edmund…"
Edmund's polite correction forced Glozelle to hide a smile even as it forced a puzzled "Pardon?" out of Miraz.
"It's King Edmund, actually. Just King, though. Peter's the High King. I know, it's confusing." Glozelle valiantly struggled to keep his mouth from dropping open in amazement. Here was a boy, surrounded by Telmarines led by a king known for his ruthlessness, and he was mocking King Miraz! With only a few words King Edmund had managed to insinuate that Miraz was either ignorant or unintelligent while acting as if he hadn't corrected a king as if he were a schoolboy.
While King Edmund and Miraz continued speaking, a startling thought caught in Glozelle's mind. King Edmund was legendary for his use of words. Every word coming out of his mouth, even now, would be carefully chosen for meaning both on the surface and deeper. Just King, though. Peter's the High King. Just King. That deeper meaning hit Glozelle like lightning. King Edmund ruled with as much authority as his brother. He may not be titled "High King", but he was never "just a King" subject to his brother's rule. But he was the Just King. King Edmund the Just who protected the weak, who championed the repentant. Who would never have ordered his general to slay his brother's son or kill three good men for the sake of propaganda.
Here the General's eyes were opened and he saw what had been staring him in the face for so long and yet he had never seen. Miraz was no worthy king; he was a manipulative, power-hungry despot, little better than the White Witch who had terrorized Narnia hundreds of years before. But here, here was a king of old, a just king known for his mercy and kindness as much as for his strength. This king had fallen to evil, but then foresworn it, rose above it, and gave his all to destroy it while Miraz wallowed in evil and used it for his own selfish purposes.
And so angry displeasure with Miraz and his rule grew in Glozelle's heart and when the Telmarine lords began subtly scorning their king for being too cowardly to fight High King Peter, Glozelle threw his glove in the ring and declared that of course Miraz would fight the High King, to show his great courage to his people. Surrounded on all sides Miraz had no escape: to refuse the duel, however more tactically sound it would be, would be to lose all support and power. The challenge was accepted and Miraz angrily brought the negotiations to a close.
Glozelle escorted King Edmund and the other heralds to the edge of the Telmarine camp. "Your majesty may be assured that none will harry you while you return to your encampment."
King Edmund bowed his head cordially. "Thank you, General Glozelle. Your honor is a credit to your race if not, may I be so bold as to say, to your lord." Not able to disagree, Glozelle only nodded grimly back. King Edmund focused intensely on Glozelle's face and the Telmarine tried not to shift nervously. "General…may I offer a word of advice?"
"Of course, your majesty."
The young Narnian stepped closer to Glozelle and spoke so that only the general could hear him. "You are a leader of soldiers. Take care what battles you lead them into: to take them into a battle you know is unworthy is worse than holding them back in the face of the ridicule of your peers. You are a servant of the Telmarine crown. Take care that the one who wears the crown is worthy of it…and that your fellow servants share your same dignity." Dark eyes blazed and Glozelle forced back the impulse to kneel before the king's noble face. "Follow Aslan and you will have the mercy and true honor you seek."
Glozelle could not speak, only bow his head as King Edmund strode away, back to the shelter known even to the Telmarines as Aslan's How. The burial mound with no body that stood as a testament to a Lion's mercy and love. Clenching his hands into fists, Glozelle turned his back to the How and returned to camp. It was time to search out Lord Sopespian and learn how he planned to turn this duel into an advantage for the Telmarines.
Glozelle watched as the newly crowned King Caspian X rode through the streets of Beaversdam followed by the Four Sovereigns of the Golden Days. He had been surprised when he had been released with the other Telmarine soldiers instead of being kept in watchful custody with the Telmarine lords, but when he had asked the new King, Caspian simply replied "You could have killed me in the battle. But you lowered your weapon."
And he had. In the heat of battle with the blood and the shouts and the smells, he had lifted a spear to skewer Caspian through the heart. Then he had looked at the fear and noble resignation in the prince's eyes and realized that he had made a final, terrible mistake. He had rejected the rule of Miraz only to throw his lot in with the Telmarine lords who were just as corrupt as the Lord Protector. He had idolized the nobility and honor of King Edmund only to forget that the Kings and Queens of old fought not just for the Narnians, but for the purpose of putting Prince Caspian on the Narnian throne. With that devastating realization Glozelle gave up everything: his tainted honor, his misplaced loyalty, his will to live…and a newly awakened tree had been happy to take that final offering.
A lump formed in his throat as he recalled his next memory, after awakening from unconsciousness. The Great Lion stood above him and gave it all back to him: his honor, his life, his loyalty restored to its rightful place. Mercy was in those great eyes, and Glozelle had found himself sobbing as all the emotions he had kept locked inside poured out. A gentle breath and he felt relieved and released from his oh so many mistakes. No words were spoken, but Glozelle felt more comfort in that moment than he had ever felt in his entire life.
Now Caspian was king and Glozelle knew that, however young, he would be a good king. Aslan stood by him, the Four Sovereigns supported him, and there was mercy in his words and actions. Glozelle watched as Telmarines and Narnians mixed in the crowd, joy overcoming any lingering fear on either side. Yes, this Narnian Telmarine was what the land needed, a king free from the misery and mistakes of his ancestors. An honorable leader of the like Glozelle could only vainly hope he might be someday.
Later that evening, as the celebrations continued unabated, Glozelle found himself standing in the shadow of one of the towers, alone as the crowds made merry. He felt someone come stand next to him. Turning, Glozelle was astonished to see that it was King Edmund, holding a cup of wine and offering him another. He took the drink with a nod of thanks, surprised when the King leaned his back against the tower, obviously in no hurry to return to joyful party. After a long moment, Glozelle could not take the unbearable silence anymore. "Your majesty, should you not be celebrating with your family?"
King Edmund, seeming more relaxed and young than he had been last Glozelle had seen him, shrugged and gave a small smile. "I can usually only take so much celebrating before I need to get some air." Black eyes fixed on Glozelle. "But that isn't why you're here, away from the festivities, is it?"
While silently cursing this king's ability to read him, Glozelle sighed. "Indeed, I do not feel worthy of celebrating after following those who caused so much pain. Pain dealt often by my own hand."
The king nodded, eyes filled with sympathy. "I've felt like that myself in the past." To Glozelle's surprise, King Edmund put a comforting hand on his shoulder. "You've been forgiven, you know. By Aslan, by Caspian. It's not easy, but eventually you will be able to forgive yourself, no matter how unworthy you feel now."
Glozelle stared at this boy who was not a boy, who seemed to read his every thought and knew all the words he needed to hear. "I did not follow your advice, your majesty. I led my troops into a battle that did not merit their loyalty and strength. I betrayed my sworn lord for his evil ways only to follow one just as corrupt without thought."
The Narnian king smiled and shook his head. "Well, I forgive you that too. And if it's any comfort, I think you're a bit like me, really."
"How so, your majesty?" asked Glozelle, wondering how he could ever be as noble as the Just King.
"You make truly awful mistakes, but you learn from them and apply all of yourself to making things right and doing better next time. That is your honor." King Edmund patted his shoulder before pushing himself from the tower wall. "Just don't forget the foundation of honor: to follow Aslan in all that you do, in the decisions you make, and in leading others as I think you've been born to do." With those final words, King Edmund returned to the celebration, leaving Glozelle, formerly General of the Telmarine army and now servant of a new King, to contemplate his mistakes, his forgiveness, his future.
And, when the next day Aslan called for Telmarine volunteers to take a step of faith and return to the land of their ancestors, it was Glozelle who led the way and was blessed.
honor: a source of credit or distinction; honesty, fairness, or integrity in one's beliefs and actions