This is it. We've made it to the end! Thank you to everyone for your kind reviews. I hope you've liked it. The sequel is in the works and the first half went off to my beta. :-D Thank you for reading!!
Chapter 11 - Love and Loyalty
Edmund slipped into the courtyard quietly. He paused just outside the main door and listened. So far, he hadn't been found out. He had left Susan sleeping in his room. Peter had been in conference with Oreius, and he wasn't sure where Lucy was. More than likely, she was with Mr. Tumnus.
He took a deep breath to steady himself and headed for the stable. He wanted to check on Phillip. He didn't remember much of what had happened after the Stone Table, but he remembered something vague about he and Lucy on a Horse and the Horse talking to them. He was sure that had been Phillip and that he had been limping. His memories of the last few days were hazy at best. The Faun Healer, Tholun, and Grubdigger, a Badger apothecary, said he had a pretty bad fever. Peter said it was from the bit the Bat had given him. He sighed. He had been so stupid.
He sighed again and realized his lungs were burning and he couldn't quite catch his breath. He made it to the stable and leaned against the corner of the building. His head was swimming and his legs feeling like they were made of jelly. He felt sick in the stomach with fatigue,and the little bit of toast he had eaten earlier threatened to make a reappearance. Maybe he had been sicker than he thought. He swallowed a gulp of air. He was this far, no use turning back. He closed his eyes a moment to pull himself together. He didn't want make it to see Phillip just to faint at the Horse's feet.
He squared his shoulders and took a deep breath, heading into the stable. He squinted into the dim light of the stable. He heard voices in the back of the stable where Phillip's quarters were. He started to turn around when he realized one of the voices was Peter. Bugger! How did he get in here?
"Edmund!" He flinched at the sharp edge on his brother's voice.
He heard Peter huff in exasperation and the straw crunch under his boots as he came up behind him. A hand rested on his shoulder sympathetically. "Come on, Phillip's been worried sick about you. You two may as well visit for awhile since you're here."
He nearly fainted with relief that Peter wasn't going to light into him.
"Whoa!" Peter exclaimed, grabbing him as Edmund's knees started to buckle.
The next thing Edmund knew, he was lying on his back in the straw and something warm and soft was brushing up against his face. His nose tickled, and he reached up and rested his hand against a warm muzzle.
He opened his eyes and looked up in the very concerned eyes of Phillip.
The Horse's head glanced up and over Edmund's shoulder. "King Peter, he's awake."
Edmund groaned. He'd fainted. Great. He struggled to sit up, and both Peter and Phillip pushed him back down.
"Rest," his older brother ordered. "Phillip's already threatened to sit on you if you don't."
The Horse nodded his head. "I will. Don't think that I'm kidding. I will do it."
Edmund snorted and started to laugh. The Horse blew a breath out his nose in disgust, but after a moment, he let Peter helped Edmund sit up.
Edmund gave the Horse a critical look. "Are you alright, Phillip? I mean really, are you alright?"
The Horse shook his mane. "My shoulder is still sore but is healing well."
"You came after me, didn't you?" he asked.
He nodded. "As if I would let King Peter ride anyone else to come after you," he snorted.
Edmund felt humbled by the Horse's loyalty. "Thank you."
"You would do no less for me," Phillip told him.
The Horse gave him a searching look. "How are you?"
Edmund opened his mouth to say he was fine, but he saw the look in the Horse's eyes and he stopped. "Better. I still feel awful, but not like before. I just feel wrung out, like after the battle," he grimace at that analogy and shot his brother a look. Peter had a worried, pained look on his face. "I didn't mean it that way," Edmund said quickly. "I just mean--" he sighed. "I make a mess out of everything, don't I?"
"Ed, it's not your fault," Peter said started.
"That's the point," Edmund said. "It is. If I hadn't betrayed you to the Witch, this wouldn't have happened. I'm the one who made the mess. It's my fault that--" he throat tightened. "It's my fault Aslan gave himself to the Witch for her to kill him. He took my place. I'm the one who deserved to die."
A warm nose nudged his shoulder until he looked up. Phillip stared down at him. "You did not force Aslan to take your place," the Horse told him. "He chose to do that because he loves you and he knew that she really couldn't kill him. He knows the true deep magic. He knew how to make her evil work for good."
Edmund felt Peter kneel down beside him. "Edmund, you can't keep blaming yourself. Remember what Aslan said. 'What's done is done'. That means you, too. None of us can change what happened, just go on from here and learn from it. She tricked you and enchanted you not to question her. You know that now. It's like the Bat, he poisoned you to get you to believe his lies."
"You are still but a colt, my King," Phillip said. "You are still learning. Learn from this and be a better King for it."
Edmund leaned over against his brother. "What did I do to deserve you two?"
Peter smiled. "Nothing. We love you."
Phillip snorted and nudged Edmund's shoulder in agreement. "But there is no accounting in taste."
Edmund couldn't help but laugh at that, and he relaxed against his brother's shoulder. He realized that the heavy weight that had been a part of his for so long had begun to ease. Aslan knew. He knew all this and he still chose him. He just had to trust Aslan.