To Defend and Protect
Disclaimer: They aren't my characters, only Quentin and Miriam and some minor characters. I'm not making any money off this, just taking a lot of pleasure in writing it!
Summary: Someone dear to Caspian is kidnapped and demands he call the Kings and Queens of Old back to Narnia. What's in store for the Pevensies when they find themselves facing a new threat? Sequel to my story "To War".
Warnings: This is ENTIRELY AU. It is set between Prince Caspian and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and does disregard some of canon, which you will see rather quickly. I have tried to keep the characters as "in-character" as I can, though, since that's important to me. If you haven't read "To War", you should, or this won't make sense. This story picks up immediately where "To War" ended.
A/N: It might take a bit of time to update this, not like "To War" which was every other night. My beta, Phoenixqueen, and I are working on this and her story, "Between Families" which is another AU story just full of Pevensie angst and twists and turns! Check it out if you get a chance, you might like it!
The crisp orange, brown and yellow leaves rustling and crackling in the light wind were the only sounds and movements in the woods for a long, drawn-out moment.
Quentin was staring at Peter, eyes wide. He said nothing as his friend stood there holding his mother. Suddenly, the woman shook the shock part-way off and, trembling lightly in her oldest son's arms, twisted so that she could look him in the eyes.
"I don't understand, Peter," she whispered, holding onto him and glancing down to see that he was putting equal weight on both his legs. "How can you be standing? And … how did we get here? To – what did you call it – Narnia?"
Sighing gently, Peter stepped back from his mother, but kept his hold on her arm just in case she ended up fainting or something. After all, falling headfirst through a portrait into a magical land, and then learning your four children had been there before, would probably be enough to throw nearly anyone into a state of shock.
Edmund stepped closer, hovering around his mother as well as Peter spoke. "We have a lot to tell you, Mum," the oldest boy said. "But, before we get into the details, Narnia is a magical world that we were first introduced to when we stayed with Professor Kirke during the bombings."
Peter gestured for Susan and Lucy to join him and allowed his oldest sister to take up his position of lightly holding their mother as he moved to make sure Quentin was all right.
"So we're not in England?" Mrs. Pevensie whispered. "But how? I don't believe in magic. Or at least, I didn't." She brought a shaky hand to her face and scrubbed at her face. "Oh, I must be dreaming."
Lucy smiled softly. "No, Mum, you aren't dreaming," the young girl said. "Narnia is real. We'll tell you all about it." She turned to Peter, who was talking quietly to Quentin. "Peter? Where do you think we are?"
Looking over at Lucy, and then past her, Peter pursed his lips in a slight frown. "I would say quite close to the ruins of Cair Paravel," he said wistfully. "You see that rise there – " he pointed deeper into the forest, towards a distant outcropping of rock that rose above the treetops "– that is the cave Caspian and I took shelter in on our way to fetch your cordial, Lu."
Susan shook Mrs. Pevensie's arm gently, trying to draw her out of the state of semi-shock. "Mum? Are you all right?"
"I think I need to sit down…" the woman muttered, lowering herself as she said it. Susan followed her down and Lucy knelt beside her. "I feel a little faint."
Edmund frowned and knelt in front of their mother. Peter pulled a quiet Quentin along behind him so that he too was hovering near their mother. The dark-haired brother spoke finally, watching as she rested her head on her knees, breathing deeply to control her light-headedness.
"Mum, this is going to be very hard to believe," he said. "But I know if anyone can handle this, it's you. You're the strongest woman I know, Mum." He grinned when she raised her head and smiled at him. "Why don't you sit here and just calm down a bit. Peter and I will take a quick look around to make sure things are well here." When she made to argue, he added quickly, "We'll stay in sight, I promise."
When Mrs. Pevensie nodded, Edmund stood and moved to Peter's side. Peter looked to Quentin. "Come on," he said to the other boy as he once again tugged on his sleeve to get him moving. It was unusual that Quentin hadn't said much more than "get off me" when he'd been landed on. Peter noted it. "Quen? Are you going to be all right, mate?"
The boy turned glassy eyes on Peter. "Hearing about Narnia is one thing. Being here is another thing entirely, Peter," he said, his voice a whisper, as if he feared speaking. "I'm not really sure how I feel right now. But …" he looked at his friend's leg. "I am glad to see you walking."
"Pete?" Edmund questioned in confusion, seeing his brother suddenly stop.
"I'm…I'm walking," the blonde said with not a little awe in his tone. As if it had just hit him that he was indeed walking.
Without a crutch.
Without the slightest bit of weakness in his right leg.
"I…" He trailed off, at a loss for words. He had wished this would happen, clung to Aslan's promise after a rough day at school, but he hadn't really put too much hope in it just in case it wasn't meant to be.
Aslan did say that Narnia would heal the hurts of our world. And my leg was only lame because it was necessary to keep me out of jail. Something bad preventing something worse. He looked down at his legs, both of them planted firmly on the ground and supporting his weight. "Thank you, Aslan," he whispered before a thought formed in his mind and he looked up.
With a suddenly huge grin on his face, he smacked Edmund, whose eyes widened as he gripped his arm in surprise. Then Peter smirked.
Edmund realized why his brother had smacked him.
Because this time, he could run away.
"Peter!" the younger boy shouted with a laugh and took off after his running brother, leaving a grinning Quentin in his wake.
The two boys bounded around, Edmund shouting at Peter between his laughter as his brother sharply switched directions to elude capture. Peter was completely caught off guard when a small figure darted forward and with a great windup, tossed a small pile of leaves up in the air to come raining down on her now still brothers.
Smiling, Lucy chuckled at the orange and yellow leaves in Peter and Edmund's hair as they stared at her. The smile was wiped off her face when the smiles erupted on theirs.
Darting forward, Peter scooped her up and threw her over his shoulder, taking off with her squealing for him to put her back down "this instant" or she would whoop his "High King butt" when she did get down.
Peter skidded to a halt at the quiet question, panting lightly from his exertions. He glanced between Edmund and Susan as he set Lucy back on the ground and grunted when she playfully punched him.
Mrs. Pevensie waved Susan away as she stood up, eyes no longer as glassy as when they'd first arrived. Brushing leaves and twigs off her clothes, she looked Peter in the eyes.
"I think you four owe me an explanation now," she said, looking between them with an expression only a mother could produce. "Seeing Peter running around, perfectly healthy, is enough to prove to me there is some magic at work here. But I know there is more to the story. I've noticed things about you, differences that I can't explain, like the chess. Also your tendency to act far older than children should…"
Peter rubbed at his chest, momentarily feeling an ache in his ribs, but not enough to stop him from moving. Narnia had gone a long way toward healing the fractures Rupert had given him.
"When I said we had a lot to tell you, I wasn't just saying that, Mum," the oldest boy said. "We should probably sit down for this." He moved back to his mother's side, picking the leaves from his hair, and plopped down as the others sank to the ground around him.
Turning to Lucy, Peter gestured for her to begin the story – since it really started with her discovery. The girl took a deep breath and turned to their mother.
"Well, one day while at Professor Kirke's, it was raining and I begged Peter to play hide and seek," she said. "I couldn't find any place to hide until I went into the spare room – and found the wardrobe."
She went on to talk about meeting Mr. Tumnus, how he had originally planned to turn her over to the White Witch, and then how he'd changed his mind. Lucy glossed over the arguments her story had caused and jumped to where all four of the siblings had entered Narnia together and had followed the Beaver to his dam.
"Ed snuck out," she continued slowly, turning to her brother uncertainly. He was avoiding everyone's eyes as she continued. "He went to the Witch's castle."
Even knowing very little of this witch, Mrs. Pevensie's eyes darted to her younger son in surprise. "Why?"
Edmund looked up. "I was different then, Mum," he muttered. "I was an angry little boy who didn't like it that Peter was always better than I was. I had stumbled into the wardrobe when I followed Lucy one night and met the Witch. She was nice to me, and made me feel important. So I went to her to take her up on her offer to make me a King. To make me something more than him."
He paused, looking apologetically at Peter, before adding, "I betrayed them."
Peter rested a hand on Ed's shoulder. "When we realized he'd gone, I wanted to go after him, but Mr. Beaver stopped me," Peter said. "He said the Witch was using Ed as bait and that she intended to kill us all."
"Kill you!" their mother erupted, straightening so quickly Peter worried she'd strain a muscle. "Actually kill you? Is this world dangerous? Why would she want to kill four children?" She was clutching her hands together rather tightly and Susan pried them apart before she could injure herself.
"There was a prophecy," the older girl said. "According to the prophecy, when four human children entered Narnia – two boys and two girls – and were named rulers over Narnia, the Witch would be defeated."
"There was a little more to it than that," Lucy added. "The other part of the prophecy said, 'Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes into sight. At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more. When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death, and when he shakes his mane, we will have spring again.' Aslan is the King Above All Kings, and the Beavers told us that he had returned to Narnia after a very long time."
"We decided to find this Aslan fellow to get help getting Edmund back," Susan continued. She took up the story and told of their narrow escape through the tunnel from the Witch's wolves, drawing more shocked gasps from their mother, but no interruption this time. "At one point, we thought she'd caught up with us, until we realized it was actually Father Christmas in the sled."
Mrs. Pevensie's brows shot up into her hairline. "Father Christmas? The Father Christmas? Who brings gifts during the night to good little children? You can't be serious."
Peter chuckled. "Oh it was him, all right," the older boy said. "Susan and I were a little incredulous, I think. But he even came bearing gifts. He brought a cordial that would heal any wound and a dagger for Lu, a bow and arrows that and a horn to call for help for Su and a shield and the sword of the High King for me."
Shaking her head, Mrs. Pevensie said, "There's another reference to High King again, Peter," she said, looking to the blonde boy. "Are you going to explain that?"
He nodded. "I'm getting there."
Without explaining further, he pressed on. "When we reached the river, the ice was beginning to melt, and we were intercepted by the wolves." He paused, realizing his mother would be bothered by this and he decided to try and gloss over the danger. "Well, they threatened us, but then the river burst through the ice and we floated off downriver hanging onto my sword, which I had shoved into an ice chunk," he said quickly.
Mrs. Pevensie's exclamation halted Peter and he winced. "Just got taken downriver a bit, Mum. It was no big deal. It's not like we were drowning or anything."
Edmund chose that moment to snort, which drew a glare from Peter. The younger boy remembered Peter trying to convince his siblings they needed to leave Narnia – by saying Lucy nearly drowned. Now he was saying the opposite.
Their mother wasn't buying it.
"You're saying a great big waterfall suddenly burst through a wall of ice and came crashing down on you three, yet it wasn't dangerous?" she asked, her voice dead calm. "I'm afraid our opinions on what is dangerous do not coincide here, Peter."
He gulped. "Right, sorry, well then we got to Aslan's camp," he said, hoping she would leave it alone, and thankful when she said nothing else about the river. "And we met Aslan."
Exchanging glances with his siblings, he added, "He was more magnificent than I have words to describe. Just being in his presence was humbling. But…he's– well – he's a great, golden lion."
He cringed when their mother laughed. "A lion. Cute, Peter, dear, but a lion?"
"Mum," Edmund said, completely serious. "Aslan really is a great lion. In Narnia, there are Talking Animals, Centaurs, gryphons, and Fauns, like Mr. Tumnus. And…well…suffice it to say, yes, Aslan is indeed a lion."
She stopped chuckling and looked sharply at Edmund waiting for him to smile and say it was all a joke. When he didn't, she shook her head and settled back. "Well, go on, what happened next?" She didn't seem convinced about Aslan, but Peter took up the story again, explaining about Jadis' claims on Edmund's blood, which had his mother gripping her younger son's hand tightly until Peter related how she had relinquished that claim later.
His voice was slightly halting as he retold how Aslan had disappeared overnight and how the next morning he and Edmund had learned of his death. Gulping, he paused before revealing the next part of their story, glancing to Ed for reassurance.
The younger boy nodded for him to go on, gripping their mother's hand with a small smile. She looked over at him in confusion, but smiled back.
Peter fiddled with the bottom cuff of his pants as he continued. "Since Aslan was gone, it fell on us to lead the army against the Witch," Peter said. "I rode at the head of our troops while Ed stayed on the cliffs with the reserves."
Mrs. Pevensie jerked her hand out of Edmund's and covered a gasp with both hands. Peter gave her some time to digest that information, waiting patiently. She turned to him. "But you were only fifteen," she said, looking like she was about to grab him and never let go. "Why would they make you do that? Why would they make you risk your life like that?"
Frowning, Peter shook his head. "They didn't make us, Mum," he said. "We agreed to do it. They needed us."
Mrs. Pevensie was staring at him as he glossed over the charge and skipped to the retreat. Her eyes felt like they were boring into him and he suddenly felt his mouth go dry as he realized the worst was yet to come for Mrs. Pevensie – Edmund's near death. Peter wasn't looking forward to relating that, but knew he had to go on.
"I told Edmund to get out and get the girls home," he said. "But you know Ed, he never listens to me…" he winced at the swat his brother tossed his way. "He saw the Witch coming for me and knew he had to do something. So he broke her wand, but…she was able to wound him."
Edmund tried not to react, but a shiver ran through him before he could stop it and Mrs. Pevensie noticed. "Wounded?" she whispered. "Ed?"
The dark-haired boy looked up at her and took a deep breath. "She stabbed me with the broken wand," he said. "I fell and don't remember much else until Lucy gave me some of her cordial and healed it."
In a swift move, he was enveloped in his mother's arms and she was shaking again. Gasping breaths warned him that she was on the verge of crying and he shushed her, patting her back awkwardly. "I'm fine, Mum," he said. "I've had sixteen years to get over it."
She jerked back at that. "What? How?"
Peter chimed in, thankful for something to distract their mother from Edmund's wound. "Time doesn't pass the same here as it does in England. We spent fifteen years here but when we went back to England, it had only been a few minutes and we were no older than when we had left," he explained. "It was quite a shock, believe me, to suddenly find yourself a child again."
He let Mrs. Pevensie absorb that information for a moment before continuing with the story. "I fought the Witch after she hurt Ed. But she was better than I was and I couldn't defeat her. It was Aslan who saved me." He trailed off when his mother started and broke in.
"But I thought he was dead," the woman countered, still not completely releasing Edmund, who didn't seem to mind her embrace and was leaning against her. "How could he have saved you, Peter?"
Frowning, Peter sighed. "It's difficult to explain, but there is a Deep Magic in Narnia," he said slowly. "The Witch didn't completely understand the consequences of her actions. She didn't know that by killing Aslan, a willing, innocent victim, in Edmund's place, the Deep Magic would turn back death. I don't claim to understand it all, but I'm very grateful for it."
The woman didn't respond to the explanation, just nodded weakly. Peter studied her face and realized that she was still in a state of mild shock. He imagined the questions would begin in earnest later on, when she wasn't reeling from being in Narnia and learning her children had been in mortal peril and she had had no idea.
"After the battle, we marched to Cair Paravel, where we'll be going soon," Peter continued. "There, we were crowned Kings and Queens of Narnia, which fulfilled the prophecy." He gestured to each of them in turn. "Queen Lucy the Valiant, King Edmund the Just, Queen Susan the Gentle and …"
"High King Peter the Magnificent!" chimed three amused voices.
Peter glared at his siblings before flashing a small smile at his mother. "What they said," he laughed. "I'm the oldest and I suppose that's why I was referred to as the High King. So, there's your explanation for that."
Mrs. Pevensie was silent as Peter finished the story of their ascension to the thrones of Narnia. Pulling away from Edmund, she let out a long huff of breath. "That's quite a story, Peter," she said quietly. "If not for the miraculous recovery I'm seeing in you, I might not believe it. But…are we in danger now?"
The oldest boy frowned again. "I don't know, Mum," he said. "I expect there is a reason for our return. We came to Narnia in the first place to help bring peace and remove the threat of Jadis. I'm not sure if we're in danger this time or not, but as soon as we find the Narnians, we'll have our answer."
Groaning as he stood and shook out a very much asleep leg, he looked in the direction of the once magnificent Cair Paravel, hoping that Caspian had had time to fulfill his promise to Peter – to rebuild the great palace. "We should probably be moving on," he said. "Not knowing how long has passed we don't want to be caught unawares, or unarmed."
He ignored the look from their mother, who had not been pleased when the word "unarmed" had left her son's mouth. Edmund came to stand beside him, and Quentin, hovering uncertainly near Mrs. Pevensie, watched as the two boys seemed to transform from school boys into adult leaders.
Edmund gestured for the girls, their mother and Quentin to follow Peter. He drew up the rear, senses on alert for the slightest danger. The six of them were silent as they picked their way through the woods, pushing aside bare branches and kicking up the layers of dead leaves on the ground.
Everyone was lost in thought, but none quite so strongly as Mrs. Pevensie, who was practically boring a hole in Peter's back with her intense gaze. She could almost imagine a golden crown on his head. Of all her children, Peter was the most obvious choice for a leader.
He had taken on the role of protector and patriarch so quickly when Mr. Pevensie had been called away to war. Perhaps a little too quickly, she had sometimes thought, as she had watched her child grow up far too fast in war-time England.
Casting a glance to her side, she took in Susan's calm and lightly smiling face and thought her oldest daughter probably had made an excellent queen. Studious, thoughtful and kind, Susan was the embodiment of what one would want in a ruler.
The cheerful Lucy on her other side was a bit more of a stretch. Mrs. Pevensie had trouble imagining a child her age in a position of power. While she knew Lucy was an extraordinary child, bright and caring, she was still just a child. How could she have been a queen?
Then there was Edmund.
She knew he'd changed from the angry boy he had been before going to the country. She had seen the change almost immediately when her son had stepped off the train after the evacuation was over.
But how had he been crowned a King of a world so soon after betraying it and his siblings? Had those he was suddenly ruling over taken it well, or had there been quarrels and mistrust? She hated to think of Edmund as anything but her perfect little boy. What mother would want to think anything different of their child?
Sighing, she returned her attention to Peter's back.
No wonder he seems much older than sixteen at times, she thought to herself. All of them seem beyond their years. Now I understand why, but it's so hard to accept that they grew up once already and I wasn't there to see any of it. I wasn't there to nurse their hurts, or to explain the way of nature to any of my children. They aren't going to need those talks, they've already lived it.
She couldn't help but feel she'd missed out on their childhoods.
She also couldn't help but feel envy of those who had been there for the things that only happen once in a child's life and that you can never get back once they've passed.
For Quentin, the thoughts were decidedly more personal.
He was in Narnia, the place where Edmund and Peter had fought, nearly died, ruled over and grown up in. And he couldn't help but wonder what he would be faced with in this magical land.
Would he have to pick up a sword, learn to wield it, and help defend the people of Narnia like the Pevensies had done? Would have be asked to take on a leadership role? Would he be here for years to come, away from his mother and father?
What was in store for him?
Part of him thrummed with excitement at the thought of daring adventures and noble quests. But a part of him also trembled with fear at the chance he could be badly hurt. Or even killed.
Glancing at Peter and Edmund, he wondered how they did it. Both had been grievously hurt here in Narnia, yet they both loved it without a moment's hesitation. The way they talked about Narnia just shouted out how dear it was to them – even after all they had been through here.
Could he rise to the challenge if he were called upon to do so?
He wasn't so sure that he could. But he expected, somehow, that he was about to find out.
On the outskirts of Cair Paravel…
Peter cast another glance toward his mother, surprised that she had remained quiet this long. Since the four of them had recounted the events leading up to their coronation, she had said nothing to any of them and appeared to be deeply lost in her own thoughts. He couldn't help but wonder what she was thinking about.
Her children facing peril in a strange land? Her youngest son nearly dying from what would have been a fatal stab wound in England? Her youngest daughter nearly being kidnapped and turned over to a tyrant?
The older boy's head snapped up and toward his mother at the sound of her voice. "Yes, Mum?"
Fidgeting, which was unusual for her, Mrs. Pevensie frowned. "You were all so young when you were thrust onto thrones. How did you manage it? It's not like they teach you how to be Kings and Queens in school."
Behind him, he heard Edmund snort and Lucy chuckle.
"Well," the boy said slowly. "It wasn't always easy. There were times, especially at the start of our reign, when I felt like throwing in the towel and trying to find that old wardrobe back to England." He furrowed his brows in thought for a moment before turning to his mother. "There is one time that sticks out in my mind, when we had to negotiate with a delegation from Ettinsmoor, which was very near the Witch's castle. They had fought alongside her, mostly out of necessity, and wanted to ally themselves with Narnia. But there was some resistance to us."
Peter, sitting on his throne, eyed the approaching delegates with trepidation.
The last time he had been face-to-face with a minotaur had been on the battlefield at Beruna, just before Edmund had been taken down by the White Witch's jagged wand. Now, one was approaching flanked by a giant and a dwarf – a delegation from Ettinsmoor, which stood to the east of where Jadis had ruled over Narnia.
Now, one had come to seek an alliance with the new Narnian monarchs.
From where they sat, Susan, Lucy and Edmund watched as the minotaur locked eyes on each of them in turn and his eyes shone with disbelief. Coming to a stop in front of Peter's throne, before the dais, the creature didn't even bow before speaking. "Why are there children sitting on Narnia's thrones? Where are the monarchs? I do not have time for games. I have traveled far to seek this alliance."
Frowning, Peter straightened in his throne.
"You are addressing Narnia's monarchs," he said, keeping all trace of fear from his voice. "I am High King Peter, these are my royal sisters, Queen Lucy the Valiant and Queen Susan the Gentle, and my royal brother, King Edmund the Just. We have granted you audience to speak of your wish for an alliance."
He heard the minotaur snort – actually snort – and his frown deepened.
Behind the delegation, Oreius stood at the ready. If any of the three so much as twitched in the direction of a concealed weapon, Peter was certain the centaur general would have them down on the ground in seconds. The centaur locked eyes with the young man for a moment, silently lending him support.
"Children? On the thrones of Narnia? What mockery is this?"
Edmund fidgeted on his throne and Peter cast a quick warning glare in his direction before turning back to the minotaur.
"Whether we are children or not has no bearing on these proceedings," he said. "If you wish to ally yourself with Narnia, you would do well to show a little respect. We will gladly hear your requests now."
Seeing that they weren't kidding, the minotaur drew himself up to his full height and took a short step forward, bringing him closer to the thrones, but not close enough to be on the steps leading to the dais. Oreius twitched in the corner, but didn't move any closer.
"Well then, as the chosen delegates from Ettinsmoor, I, Arglak; Benkrin, the dwarf; and Cespang, the giant, come before you as equals and ask that we form an alliance of protection and of trade," the tall creature said resolutely. "We ask that we could call upon Narnia in times of distress and that we be afforded hunting rights on lands that border our own. We would otherwise leave you alone, and you otherwise would leave us alone."
There was dead silence in the throne room following his words.
Peter glanced to Susan, then Lucy and finally to Edmund before turning back to the minotaur.
"Good Arglak," he said slowly. "I do not believe you fully comprehend the chain of authority in Narnia. Aslan, as He has always been, is the King over all Kings in Narnia. After that, I, as High King, rule over all countries within Narnia's boundaries, with my sisters and brother beside and supporting me. The rulers of lands within Narnia, such as Archenland, fall under our authority. Ettinsmoor would be no different. We would not be equals."
If the minotaur had seemed angry about young monarchs, he was positively incensed by the same monarchs having authority over him.
"That is not acceptable," he seethed, stepping forward. "I will not be ruled over by a child."
Seeing the minotaur drawing closer, Peter stood in case he should try something Rhindon was sheathed and hanging from the back of his throne, within easy reach, although Peter kept himself from reaching for it, not wanting to appear hostile.
Oreius took a step forward. "You will stand back from the dais." He raised his drawn sword a little higher, but didn't point it at the minotaur.
Edmund stood, moving beside Peter. Susan and Lucy followed suit – the four Narnian rulers seeming taller when together.
"Whether you like it or not, good Arglak, that is the way of things in Narnia," Peter said firmly. "We were enthroned by Aslan himself, and per his rule, we have authority over Narnia and her lands. Do I take it you do not wish to continue this discussion?"
Stepping back under Oreius' gaze, the minotaur glared at Peter. "I will not bow down to you."
He turned and stormed from the chamber. Oreius nodded to a nearby Faun, who immediately spun on his hoof and hurried from the throne room. The Faun would make sure the minotaur left Cair Paravel.
Peter turned his attention to the dwarf and the giant.
"Do you share Arglak's opinion on the matter?"
The two exchanged glances. "I do not, King Peter," the dwarf said. "I don't like you. But I will obey your commands if only to get what I need for my dwarves. I wish to continue the discussion."
The giant was frowning and looked like he wanted to scratch his head, perhaps in confusion, but Peter couldn't tell. "We need food," the giant finally said. "I represent a faction of giants, but not all of them. I will talk with you, King of Narnia."
Nodding, Peter returned to his throne, taking a seat and gesturing for a chair to be brought for Benkrin as his siblings reclaimed their own thrones. Unfortunately, there was no chair in Cair Paravel that could hold Cespang, but the giant seemed to understand and slowly sat down on the floor. "Then we shall sit and speak," he said.
Mrs. Pevensie, who had listened to the story with rapt attention, shook her head. "You never had that cool of a temper at home, Peter," she said, looking over at him. "Did a crown on your head really change you that much?"
Slowing, Peter thought about it for a moment. Why had he acted so differently? In England, it hadn't taken much for him to blow up at Edmund or yell when he felt threatened. But in Narnia, as King, he hadn't done so. "I suppose so, Mum," he said. "We had so many lives in our hands and I guess it made me realize I couldn't act the way I had at home. If I'd have started yelling at him like an angry little boy it would have made matters worse."
"We didn't always have it easy," Edmund said from behind them all. "That wasn't the only time someone wasn't thrilled with our ages, though it was the only time that someone walked away and never came back to the table. We had trouble with Ettinsmoor and the remnants of the Witch's army for many years. The giants who weren't allied with Cespang were also a big problem." Peter's shiver didn't go unnoticed by any of them, though none of them called him on it. "But in the end, we prevailed. Even if we had to use a show of force or thwart rebellions."
He stopped speaking at a hard glare from Peter and realized he'd just essentially told their mother that they had done more fighting. Frowning, he was glad when she didn't call him on it. But she did narrow her eyes and glare at Peter, who withered under the intense stare.
Susan patted her mother's hand and took attention away from her brothers. "We had tutors, Mum," the young woman said. "We learned diplomacy, royal protocol, and how to sit in judgment, among other things. It really helped us learn how to negotiate and determine what was best for all those involved." Glancing at the rapidly lowering sun, she shook her head. "We best keep going. It'll be nightfall soon."
Mrs. Pevensie nodded and let Peter once again draw ahead of her.
It was hard to do.
She expected it was never easy for a parent to let go of their child and let them take the lead.
A young, dark-haired man with a heavy crown perched on his head paced from one side of the dais to the other, pivoting at each end sharply and shaking his head in exasperation.
"What if it didn't work? What if he kills her because it didn't work?
Beyond the dais a grey-haired man watched the young monarch's pacing with a frown. "You must be patient, my liege," Duke Cornelius urged. "You only called them a few hours ago and last time they didn't arrive immediately either. There is no reason to believe it hasn't worked."
Spinning on his heel at the end of the dais again, King Caspian the Tenth looked over at the only filled chair in the throne room – currently occupied by a strangely silent and shivering Lord Glozelle.
Realizing he was being selfish, Caspian stepped down from the dais and moved in front of the man's seat, kneeling down to put the two on the same level.
Glozelle's red-rimmed eyes cast upward to meet Caspian's, also rimmed in red. The latter spoke gently. "We'll find her," Caspian whispered. "It was wrong of me to despair so soon. The Kings and Queens will come to Narnia's aid once more; we have to hold to that."
Swallowing around a large lump in his throat, Glozelle nodded mutely. He clasped Caspian's hand in his own and then glanced past the young King toward the throne room door where Trumpkin had just entered.
"My liege," the dwarf called out, panting from what must have been a mad dash to reach the room and then bowing when Caspian acknowledged him. "We have received word from Karis, my King. Another message sent by carrier bird." He held a crisp white parchment in his hands, gripping the paper so tightly it was crinkled beneath his fingertips.
There was a sharp intake of breath from the two men as Caspian hurriedly rose and snatched the parchment from Trumpkin's hands. "Thank you, my friend," the King said, unfolding the message with no small amount of trepidation.
Reading aloud, he spoke loudly enough for those assembled to hear. "False King, if you have not delivered the usurping Narnian rulers by noon two days hence, you shall receive a most disturbing package – a betrothed long passed from the world of the living. Do not attempt to rescue her, for you have no hope of doing so; we are where you cannot pass." He shakily looked up. "It's signed Karis, the True King of Narnia."
From the throne room entrance, Lord Glenstorm and Trufflehunter stepped forward, having heard the message recounted. Neither spoke a word as the young King stared at the paper, eyes boring into it as if he could destroy it and render its message untrue simply by looking at it.
Finally, he ripped his gaze away. "Glenstorm, would you be so kind as to send out another search party?" he said to the centaur lord. "We must find the Kings and Queens and get them here. My betrothed's life depends on it. The future of Narnia as well."
The Narnian nodded and bowed, then turned and hurried from the room, his hooves clipping loudly through the stone corridors. When he was gone, Caspian sank into the nearest chair and his head fell into his hands.
Quietly, he whispered, "Miriam."
There was silence as the King and his companions waited anxiously for the arrival of the four monarchs of legend – their friends – and worried for the life of their young, soon-to-be Queen.
A/N: Well, what do you think? Still in the dark, I know, but I'll get to the conflict soon. Please, please, read and review!!!