Title: Gentle Ways
Disclaimer: I do not own the Chronicles of Narnia.
Note 1: The answer to challenge 28: Fight. Prince Caspian movieverse. While reading my copy of Lucan's Civil War, or Pharsalia as it is sometimes called, I came across a quote that really fit the topic of 'fight' (Technically the entire epic fits, but this quote really fits). From that quote, I wrote this entire fic from about midnight to 2:30 in the morning, meaning it rambles a bit and is sort of dark. I did edit it while actually more awake, but it still has a dark tone, lots of talk about blood and battle. It also ended up as a slight polemic concerning Susan fighting in the Prince Caspian movie.
Note 2: This was incredibly hard to write, because I have never fought in any battle. I've read about war, about people's experiences in war, but having never experienced it myself, I fully admit that my writing probably does not fully convey what warriors and soldiers truly experience.
Susan never understood why Edmund unquestioningly followed his older brother into the brawls Peter always seemed to be getting into in the months after the four Pevensie children first left Narnia. She asked her younger brother why he indulged and condoned Peter's irresponsible behavior by joining him in the various fights, but Edmund always seemed to evade giving a straight answer. He simply said that she could not understand, and that he hoped she never would understand. For, unlike Susan, Edmund never wondered why Peter had such a hard time adjusting to being in England after their time in Narnia. Why their brother, once a man known for being kind and wise, now fought in the streets with boys who were half the age Peter considered himself to be. Susan, the gentle one who never fought in war in Narnia, could never understand that Peter, Edmund, and, to some extent, Lucy had been permanently changed by the many battles fought during their reign.
It was no easy thing to take the life of another being, even for a just cause, even if that being was evil. Battle was not heroic, not a choreographed play where the soldiers valiantly exchange sword-blows until one falls neatly to the ground, instantly dead. Battle was chaos, the inexorable mix of steel and flesh, of screams and tears and sweat. Shoving a sword in another living, breathing, thinking creature is not glorious; it is blood sprayed on your face, guts sliding down your hands, and the agonized gurgle of a life being extinguished.
"Blood, once tasted, never lets the defiled throat return to gentle ways." Edmund had never read truer words when his Latin class translated Lucan's epic story of civil war. Like Peter, Edmund had metaphorically and literally tasted blood in the thick of battle, his own and that of his enemies. As kings of Narnia, war was nearly a constant companion; peace is not kept by the idle. No matter how just those wars were, and Edmund never let his brother wage an unjust war, the two kings, and even the youngest queen, had still defiled their throats and hands with blood. It was part of them, a scar more invisible and yet more damaging than any scar from their physical wounds. And, though their physical scars had disappeared as their bodies had grown younger and time reset itself, the intangible blood still coated their memories.
Back in England the four monarchs were adults trapped in children's bodies. Lucy, a little girl who knew how one must change technique when slitting the throat of a dwarf as opposed to a boggle. Susan, not yet a woman, who knew the admiring stares of princes. Edmund, a boy bullied by twelve year olds, who had once killed a friend-turned-traitor to save his sister's life. Peter, a school-boy taught French declensions, who knew as well as any soldier in the War what it means to slash through a man's gut while desperately trying to prevent the same thing from happening to him.
How does one return after that? Susan, untouched by blood and chaotic battle, had readily accepted life in England. She may not have been the renowned beauty she once was, but she had the solace that she would be, eventually. Lucy, pure-hearted Lucy, had been able to push aside her few, blood-stained dances and waltz through life in England as she had in Narnia: her faith in their eventual return, her trust in Aslan, kept the light in her eyes.
Peter, though…Peter still felt the blood in his throat. He was a king without a kingdom, a soldier without a sword, a man forced to be a boy. Instead of reveling in the freedom from fighting wars, he felt empty and useless. He took no joy in peace, instead searching out battle wherever he could, fighting with his fists against children instead of with his sword against giants. Despite Susan's disapproving looks, Edmund thanked Aslan daily that Peter could only feed his blood-lust with a few punches, too young in this world to enlist in the war enveloping all nations.
As for Edmund himself, stained with blood, he did not feel the same emptiness that Peter struggled to fill with juvenile brawls. Though he had tasted blood, he turned his appetite to protecting his siblings. He commiserated with Lucy over Susan and Peter's abandonment of faith. He comforted Susan when the other girls laughed at her queenly airs. Diving into the fist-fights, he protected Peter when the older boy desperately tried to fill his empty throat with blood through the bruises and shallow cuts he inflicted on his adversaries.
It was this last that Susan never understood, a source of contention between her and Peter that Edmund could only try to settle; for how can a mediator find common ground for peace between two parties when one piece of ground is drenched a red that the other person has never felt? The Just was caught between the Gentle, whose hands were pale and clean, and the Magnificent whose title came with a bloody price and lasting scars. Before the tension between brother and sister could explode, though, a horn sounded and a new adventure began.
One adventure, two pitched battles, and a coronation later, and the four siblings were back in England. As they rode the train towards school, Edmund felt he could finally breathe again. A tense, but peaceful, encounter with a few childish bullies had shown Edmund that Peter's blood-lust was controlled now. The horror of the battles in Narnia, the soft words of Aslan spoken only to the High King, had left Peter with a firm grip on himself: blood still stained his hands, but, like Edmund, Peter now let that blood, those memories, spur him into other pursuits instead of emptying him of fulfilling life.
It was the conversation with Susan, though, spoken in a hushed whisper that even Peter and Lucy were not privy to, that left Edmund's head bowed in mourning. Susan, his gentle sister, looked at him with haunted eyes, and told him simply that she understood now. Blood, once tasted, thought Edmund sadly as he watched his sister unconsciously rub her hands together, a gesture he knew from the many times he tried to wash the red memories from his own hands. It took a desperate, bloody war, but Susan now stood on level ground with her brothers and sister.
Yet such was the terrible price, one Edmund understood but despaired over: another throat defiled by blood and the loss of a Gentle Queen.