A Convivial Christmas
Disclaimer: Clearly I am an Englishman come back to life in order to type my own fan fiction on a secondhand computer belonging to some student. Clearly…
There was a raucous scream shot piercingly into his left ear, and High King Peter was mercilessly thrown from his deep slumber into a realm of blinding light and overly-giddy little sisters.
"Peter! Wake up! Peter-Peter wake up!!"
Lucy Pevensie, sometimes styled as the Valiant Queen under her eldest brother and established Guardian to the eastern portion of the Narnian realm, had leapt from the widely thrown doorway and smack into the solid chest of Peter (who wasn't feeling very solid, and rather more like a lazy lump of cranberry pudding that was slightly short of breath), to continue in her declaration of joy. She pounded a merry fist upon his collar bone. He coughed weakly.
"Lucy- what are you on about? It's-"He raised a weary head to crane his neck about for a clock.
"You exiled it to the hall, Peter." Lucy said knowingly, a resplendent smile making him close his eyes and drop back onto the pillows.
The nice…soft pillows…
"Yes, well. It's too early to be excited about anything."
"But it's snowing, Peter!" Lucy burst out, bouncing on his stomach and causing him to wince, "Lots and lots of snow! It's up to my waist! Come see!"
She latched a spectacularly firm grasp upon his wrist and hoisted his upper torso perpendicular to the mattress, causing his head to loll a bit on his neck. But because she was so excited, and because he did so want her to be happy and gleeful about something, he gave a mighty sigh and helped Lucy drag his cadaver from the bed. She guided him across the room like a blind man, telling him where furniture was and where dips resided in the floor, so that he didn't trip.
He nodded agreeably to her instruction and promptly ran into the doorframe, only cracking his eyes open to mutter a polite "pardon me", to which the fretting guards posted there assured him that he had no need to be pardoned.
Honestly, they'd been having a rough time of it lately. Taxes to levy, roads to pave, feuds to fix, and a general Kingdom to run…it was a wonder any of them could be awake at this hour of the day. Regardless of whether or not it was after noon. Would they always be exhausted like this? Peter wondered. Or were they just so worn because it was their first year of being royals?
Their reign had began with a bang, jumpstarting the former residents of Finchley into the lifestyle of Kings and Queens like a maelstrom, with almost no gaps between lessons to so much as eat a proper meal, and even less than the recommended time to sleep. For the first Spring, the first Summer, and the first Fall, the Pevensies had risen to the occasion grandly.
Lucy was a joy and an inspiration to all of them; her mere presence seemed to produce the most profound ideas and contraptions that would help lift their country from the mire Jadis had constructed.
Edmund had played a major role in rooting the more prominent members of Jadis' remnants from the underground societies that haunted the Western Woods, sparing those who repented at the sight of his blazing banners, and utterly obliterating those that dared to bare their bloodied fangs at his extended hand.
Susan had extended invitations to those of the Lone Islands to join their liberated home, assuring them that the White Witch was quite gone, and that Cair Paravel was being run by the Legendary Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve.
He, Peter, had formed tight alliances with their neighboring countries and was currently attempting to finish the task of building an army that would protect against the stirring North, to which their tutors warned them lurked Creatures that wouldn't exactly be thrilled with the idea of Jadis' end.
Together they held court over trifle disputes, took lessons in Royal behavior, the girls learned of Narnian songs and how to keep the castle running, while the boys learned swordplay and the mannerisms of the battlefield. They barely saw each other, save for meals. Typically, the two genders were completely separate.
By the beginning of winter, it was obvious that the four were wearing down.
Impromptu naps during lessons became more frequent, attention was strained when required for more than a full minute, Susan developed (much to her chagrin) large, dark bags beneath her eyes, Edmund's blows with his swords felt lighter and lighter at each sparring session, and Peter had found Lucy dozing off into her hashed potatoes one morning at breakfast. He had realized that, among the four, it was the younger two that gripped the short end of the stick. Both kept up with their older counterpart by sheer will alone; Lucy woke early with her sister to learn cooking in the kitchens because Susan was waking up early, and didn't seem nearly as tired. Edmund had taken up twin swords because Peter had yet to complain about his one, and (in a burst of boyish competitiveness) tried to prove that he and his brother were on equal footing.
It was the day when Lucy had simultaneously burnt her arms from falling asleep on her feet during a baking lesson and Edmund had nearly been trampled by Philip because he had fallen out of the saddle and hadn't the strength to raise himself from the grass that Peter finally put his metaphoric foot down.
Using his limitless High King power, he proclaimed the first day of the week to be a day of rest for the entire Kingdom, and refused to budge on the matter for anyone (even his indignant siblings).
A day, Peter thought miserably, that was today.
Huddled in his night shirt and breeches, Peter couldn't help but wonder why his little sister was so full of energy at nine o'clock in the morning. She had let go of his hand as soon as they reached the pavilion, leaping out into the garden and throwing her scrawny form into the heaping piles of gleaming, sticky, white powder. He knew that, on some level, he should berate her for not wearing a coat or even socks, for Aslan's sake… but something about getting two hours of sleep and watching your servants handle the issue for you (with much anxious flapping of hands and nervous stuttering) while you littlest sister cheered and fought off the "enemies" with expertly compiled snowballs ("Take that! And that!"), put him in a rather lax mood.
Susan appeared at his shoulder. The bags under her eyes had receded marvelously, and she even smiled at the antics of their Valiant sister, though she had the sense to come outside cocooned in a heavily padded quilt. Peter greeted her with a kiss on the cheek.
"Good morning, Peter. Did Lucy pull you out of bed?" She asked, as she accepted the kiss and gave him one in return upon his chilled skin.
Peter gave a mighty sigh, which gave birth to an even mightier yawn, exposing his glistening back molars to the entire Cair. Susan frowned worriedly, but he smiled tiredly and stretched out his arms briskly to give them some feeling.
"Yes. I would say 'pull' is a very accurate definition." He attempted to stave off a second yawn, and was forced to release it behind the back of his hand. Susan's frown etched deeper into her face, so Peter continued, feeling the need to come to Lucy's defense.
"Well, it is rather exciting- the snow. And just look at how deep it is! Imagine the snow forts you could build with all of that snow; maybe even an igloo. This snow should be here for weeks."
"Yes," said Susan, her eyebrows contracting sharply, and her words carefully measured, "It should be here for a while yet."
Peter looked at her.
"Well, what's so bad about that?"
Susan glanced around them, as if she expected someone to be eavesdropping on their conversation about snowfall.
"Do you think Ed will be all right with it?"
It was Peter's turn to frown.
"Why wouldn't he be? He loves snow."
"Well," She replied, drawing her quilt tighter around her, "I was just thinking about what happened last winter…and I can't help but feel as though it may bring up some rather bad memories for him."
Other than an intense darkening of his features at the phrase "last winter", Peter handled the idea fairly well.
"Ed won't be bothered by it," He said surely, his golden head shaking back and forth, "You know he doesn't like to wallow."
"But, Peter, think about it!" The Gentle urged worriedly, her gaze flicking to the snowdrifts in a high-strung fashion, "Edmund always gets that look on his face when people even hint at the name of the White Witch! Remember the first few weeks of when he dealt with her army? Remember the way he reacted to the term "traitor'? And that was when it was used to describe others."
"And he did have nightmares quite a few times during that," Peter realized aloud, concern tightening his brow, "And he always said that he felt it was right he didn't get anything for Christmas that year."
"He feels guilty," Susan stressed, nodding emphatically, "Back in England there were books about people who have done things, or were subject to circumstances, that didn't allow them to live normal lives."
"Ed has been as normal as can be." The eldest said, with an odd tightening of his chest.
"It doesn't snow in the Summer, Peter," She shook her head, and pointed out into the garden, where Lucy had formed a large wall of snow and ice and was tactfully picking sock-bearing servants off of the advancing lines with her wickedly developed aim, "In such circumstances, all the people needed was something that reminded them of the incident to set them off."
"'Set them off'?" Peter asked, throat suddenly dry as he recalled such events over the summer, when Edmund had been rooting out remnants, and entered into a deep, brooding state that could fill the entire throne room with an eerie, suffocating blanket.
"'Always Winter, never Christmas'… The last time everything was covered in snow Edmund fell prey to the Witch's spell, and he knows it! If he sees this much snow again…" She trailed off, gesturing helplessly at the world of white. The sea of snow.
The castle walls frozen in ice.
Peter swallowed some odd feeling into his stomach and turned, panicked, to his sister.
"What should we do?"
"Don't let him see it." She said instantly, then froze, her eyes widening in horror-
"If you two are talking about my Christmas present, I already have a good idea about what you got me."
A voice spoke up from behind him at that same moment, and Peter found himself whirling wildly to face the hunched, blanket-smothered form of his brother, King Edmund, who was walking sleepily towards them, still enough in the hallway to not see the outdoors, and yet close enough to make Peter's heart leap about like a drunken faun.
"Edmund! What are you doing up so soon?" Susan asked, pressing forwards and shielding the sight of the garden with her own bundled shape, drawing back her shoulders and standing her full height to block as much of his visage a possible. He shrugged, still walking towards them, completely oblivious.
"I suppose I got more sleep than I was used to. Besides, it was rather cold in my room." Here he looked reproachfully at his brother.
"I accidently fell asleep in my own room last night," Peter explained apologetically, "I was up pretty late. I meant to go over, but I must have lit out doing paperwork. Sorry."
"S'okay," Edmund replied, shrugging again, "But you really should let me help out with some of that paperwork, if you ever want to grow big and tall." White pearls flashed in the morning sun, then disappeared behind the lips that curtained their exits and entrances like a magicians' act.
Peter managed a weak laugh, joining Susan in the not-too convincing charade of cheerfulness while the two set up a sort of wall, barring their little brother's path from the garden. By now he had noticed their odd behavior, and seemed to wake up a bit, looking between the two of them with concern.
"Am I not going to breakfast today?" He wondered curiously, and Peter mentally kicked himself. The dining hall was only accessible by the path beside the garden, after all.
"How about eating in our rooms today?" Peter said, scrambling to prepare a list of excuses for all the barmy reasons forcing them to eat outside of the dining hall. None would fly, if he knew Edmund.
"In our rooms?" Two dark streaks melded and met in the center of the brow; a sort of hazard sign, if you would. "Why in our rooms? I thought Susan was dead-set against that."
"I had a change of heart," Susan offered lamely, and Peter stood a little straighter to pick up the slack in their screen.
"Do you want her to bend her rules or not? Seize the opportunity, man!" Peter teased, easing Edmund back into the safe haven of the ice-free hallway. A few more steps and they were golden…
"It's not that I'm not pleased to hear it," The Just began, still glancing at each sibling in turn, "It just seems a bit out of character, is all."
Neither sibling said a word, silently pressing forward, and pushing his backwards. He stumbled, a foot catching onto his blankets, and he stopped, staring fiercely at his older siblings, the edge of his night shirt visible through the broken ward of wrappings. He planted his hands on his hips and looked past Peter's shoulder, making him unconsciously shift to block his view.
The hazard sign could have been in neon.
"All right, you two. What is it you don't want me to see?"
"We aren't-"Peter sputtered.
"Ed, just listen to us-"Susan began.
Not one of them got any farther, for at that moment, a well-aimed snowball arched through the crisp air and hit Peter in the back of the head with a solid, crunching, thud, and Lucy (soaked to the bone with melted snow and icicles) bounded around him, holding her stomach and laughing loudly.
The instant the snow had hit him, it slithered down his exposed back, and he yelped, jumping about and clawing at his back to get the wad of molded ice out of his shirt.
The instant the snow hit, Edmund's view to the garden was free, and he froze in his tracks, going oddly still.
"Got you Peter!" Lucy laughed, "You'd think Oreius trained you better than that!"
Peter hopped up and down in a frightfully Un-kingly manner, yammering about 'cold', and issuing a series of promises in all the ways he planned to retaliate. Lucy continued to laugh at him until the ice came free (visibly smaller than when it had popped down his collar) and Susan's voice cut through the air.
"Edmund? Are you all right?"
Peter spun on a dime, his eyes locking onto his little brother, who had left them all, walking in a sort of trance into the garden, slowly turning in a waltz-like circle, his eyes wide, taking in the mountains of snow that covered the ground, and most of everything visible. Slowly, his hand came up in a smooth motion to catch a falling snowflake that lazily circled down from the brooding clouds above.
"Ed?" Peter called, cautiously.
His voice was soft, resonating from somewhere deep within his frail chest, his eyelids drooping to a half-mast height, and his other hand flowing upwards to join the first. The blankets that were tightly wrapped about his shoulders fell to the ground in a crumpled heap, the snow quickly soaking against them from the quickly fading heat.
"Ed?" Peter asked, his voice becoming tighter, more urgent. His brother didn't reply.
Peter turned to Susan with fearful eyes.
"What should we-?"
He staggered as a giant, well-aimed snowball collided with the back of his head, causing a mass twice as large as the first to sneak down his shirt collar, and making him yell in surprise, flapping the back of his nightshirt to wriggle the hulking lump out. Lucy clapped her hands in delight from in front of him, and behind him, a beautiful sound erupted from the garden.
Clear, unrestrained, bell-like, hearty, real laughter. From his brother.
In amazement, Peter righted himself and stared, ignoring the ice on his back as it fell to the stone floor with a dignified plop.
Edmund struggled to stand, his hands being the only things supporting him as he leaned heavily upon his knees, giggles (bereft of sadness, regret, or any of those other darker emotions) temporarily paralyzing him. His face was quickly growing red with lack of oxygen, and his brows drew together and up, of all things, his face practically splitting from laughing as hard as he was.
As his family looked on, feeling strangely out of place, he managed to regain control enough to stand, rubbing his nose as the occasional giggle busted through his composure.
"Lucy's right," He chortled, "You really are off of your game."
"Edmund," Peter gasped, "You're smiling!"
"Indeed," Edmunds' lips twitched.
"But we thought- the Witch-!" Susan exclaimed, eyes wide with wonder.
Edmund calmed, though the smile didn't leave.
"The Witch is dead." He smirked suddenly, "In fact, I'm sure there's a song about that…"
"We thought you might have been upset to see snow after what…happened." Peter said, still a bit dazed, "Or that you'd feel guilty."
"Do you want me to feel guilty?" Edmund queried.
"No, of course not, Edmund!" Lucy cried, running forward to throw her arms around him. He hugged her to his side and kissed the top of her head.
"The fact of the matter is that I was guilty. Was. Now I'm not. So why should I be upset to see something I enjoy? I'm done being that Edmund. This is who I am now: a King. I don't have to worry about a past that no longer relates to me, do I?"
"Well, no, I suppose not." Was the general assenting answer.
Edmund smiled warmly at them, his eyes lingering on Peter's.
"Thanks for worrying about me."
"No problem." Peter said, smiling back,
Suddenly, Edmund's smile turned evil. Grabbing Lucy around the middle and flinging her over his shoulder, He called back at his stunned older siblings from the top of Lucy's snow fort,
"Lucy's on my team!"
And so, the first and only battle that High King Peter the Magnificent had ever lost was recorded by an amused scribe, who happened to be passing by when the two younger siblings delivered the finishing below. Curiously enough, below this account, in a fine, rigid hand, someone had come and written in the margin between the record and the edge of the page the following:
"…If indeed you heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the Truth is in Aslan: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old flesh, which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the Spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new flesh which was created according to the Great Emperor Over the Sea, in the righteousness and holiness…"
A/N: I finished my second story! Argh- *stretches out kinks in hands* that took longer than I thought.
Please review and give me a word or two of what you thought. This way I can get an idea of what to write for the audience.
As always, a steaming pile of freshly baked cyber-cookies awaits those who review.